A HOLIDAY DIVORCE
Janice Roven has over 35 years of experience practicing law and has a deep level of understanding from both sides of the table when it comes to family law as a direct result of her unfortunate custody battle. Janice provides strength, compassion, and the wisdom of personal experience. Here, Janice Roven discusses the complexities of navigating a divorce during the holidays.
In a divorced family, the structure of the holidays can be stressful. In general, the agreement signed by the parties or a Court Order sets forth the holiday schedule. Some agreements split the days in half and other agreements split the holidays with odd and even years. If you have not established a schedule, please know that there is no “right schedule.” The right answer is what works best for you and your family. That being said, the advantage of an agreement between the parties, as opposed to a trial where the Judge decides, is that the parties can decide the schedule that works for your family.
For example, if Christmas Eve is more important to you and Christmas day is more important to your spouse, then you can split the holidays this way going forward. Another example is if one party is Jewish and the other party is not, then the celebration of Christmas Eve and day may not be an issue. It is critical for the adults to understand that working through the holidays together and coming up with a schedule that works for everyone is in the best of the children and ultimately in your best interest. With respect to holiday vacations, some people like to split them in half and others like to rotate the entire vacation. If you split the time in half, then you will probably only have 2.5 days plus a weekend. That is generally a short time to go somewhere. You may consider splitting the time this way until the children get older. Some people find it difficult for a two-year-old to be away from either parent for that length of time. Often, one parent would get the entire vacation in odd years and the other parent would get the entire vacation in even years. Again, it is critical for the parents to decide what works for your family. For example, if one of the parties works in a job in which going away or taking time off for the Christmas holiday is impossible, then strong consideration should be given to allowing the children to spend the holiday with your spouse, instead of spending it home waiting for you to return from work. It is likely that the holidays will be emotionally difficult for the children as well as the adults who are involved in a separation or divorce. It may be the first time that the entire family is not together for the holiday season. It may be the first time that the children do not wake up in their “home” for Christmas day. The more the adults embrace the new holidays traditions as set forth in the agreement, the more the children will embrace the new schedule. Children generally do better when they know what to expect. Prior to the holiday season, you may want to have a conversation with the children so they have time to process the new schedule. Do not hesitate to consult with therapists, advisors or your lawyer regarding how to structure the holidays so it works for the adults and the children.