The year is winding down, and we are already in the thick of the holidays. If you have been struggling with your marriage, you might be thinking that the best gift you could give yourself would be a meeting with a divorce attorney or a divorce mediator. You might also think it makes more sense to ride out the rest of the year without upsetting family traditions. After all, isn’t choosing peace in the spirit of the season?
If you are grappling with this kind of decision, it’s important to consider whether or not there are any crucial reasons either to act sooner or to delay.
Putting Divorce on Hold for the Holidays
Common reasons people give for putting divorce on the back burner during the holiday season include the following:
- A divorce announcement during the holidays will plant an indelible negative stamp on future celebrations.
- Announcing a divorce during the holidays will ruin this happy time for the children.
- It will be too difficult to deal with a shared parenting schedule over the holidays.
- A separation now would interfere with plans involving extended family or with a family vacation.
Some of these reasons are really permutations on the same theme, i.e., protecting children. If you have children, there is no avoiding the fact that a divorce will be hard for them. You can certainly make it easier though, by proceeding carefully, with deep regard for their feelings. Adapting to a completely new parenting arrangement that requires spending time at two different homes is challenging. When it coincides with established holiday traditions, it can be all the more challenging. There’s nothing wrong then, with wanting to protect your children from this adjustment for one more year. Starting a new parenting arrangement near the beginning of the year, rather than near the end, also gives children a chance to get acclimated before the additional complications of the holidays roll around again.
Make sure, however, that you balance the instinct to delay matters for the sake of the children against the current quality of your home environment. Are you able to convincingly put on a happy front for your kids? Or will you be gritting your teeth the entire time? Sometimes it’s easier to pretend that everything is fine when you have a fun family trip planned, or when you are surrounded with supportive extended family. Be careful not to overestimate your acting ability though. Children are very sensitive to tension between their parents.
Reasons Not to put Everything on Hold
Some reasons people give for deciding to move ahead with divorce in spite of the holidays include the following:
- It’s just too hard to attend social gatherings pretending to be a happy couple when you know it’s over.
- For financial reasons, you urgently need to get some temporary support agreements or orders in place.
- You need to file a divorce complaint to set a date for property valuation before the end of the year.
These last two reasons can be especially important. You may not even be sure if they apply to you before you consult with a family law attorney. It’s important to be aware then, that if what you really want to delay until after the holidays is a divorce announcement, this should not get in the way of taking steps to protect your rights. Generally speaking, once you are certain divorce is on the horizon, the sooner you consult with an attorney, the better. Choosing peace doesn’t have to mean ignoring your own best interests. It is also usually wise to get legal advice before deciding exactly when to announce divorce plans to your spouse, and certainly before you file any legal paperwork.
Similarly, if you and your spouse have already agreed to a divorce, but you are simply hesitating about announcing this plan to your children, there is no reason that you cannot go ahead and meet with a mediator before you do this. Divorce mediators can be very helpful, in fact, if you need advice about when and how to tell your children about the divorce.
There is one more reason for waiting to make a final break until after the holidays. This time of year can be a joyful, family-oriented time. As many well know, however, it can also be a stressful time. Stress tends to cause people to make decisions that they later regret. The best time to make major decisions, like those involving divorce, is when things are as stress-free as possible.
So, during this holiday season, your best choice may be to take steps to protect yourself while also taking steps to keep the peace. And when you are ready to move forward with your divorce, remember that one of the best ways to keep peace in the family is by choosing divorce mediation.
If the time is right for you to talk to a family mediator, you don’t have to wait. Call us today for your initial consultation.