Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Getting Through the Holidays -- While Planning a Divorce

It usually takes a while to come to the realization that divorce may be the best alternative to a contentious, disconnected or dying marriage.  Few people have a sudden realization that it's over.  Many people gradually decide they want a divorce.  In some cases, physical or financial danger pushes a person to initiate a divorce quickly, and that's appropriate.  More often, there's time to think about the pros and cons and to plan how and when to initiate the process.

When there are children involved, most people want to try to insulate and protect the children from the stress, conflict and disruption of a divorce.  Unfortunately, in some cases, a parent will immediately want to drag the children into the middle of the dispute, often hoping for sympathy and support, but sometimes to hurt the other parent.

Holidays are some of the more stressful times of the year, even without marital discord raising the conflict level.  When a looming divorce is added to the mix, things can be pretty tense during what we like to think is a happy season.

If you are considering/anticipating a divorce now, here are some suggestions to help keep "Merry" and "Happy" part of your life during the holiday seasons.

1.  Go ahead and meet with a lawyer.  You need to know what your process options are.  As I have mentioned in prior posts, you have a range of options from meeting with your spouse at a kitchen table and negotiating, to mediation with or without an attorney, to litigation -- the most common approach, to Collaborative Law.  The attorney should be able to help you decide which approach would work best for your situation.  You don't have to start right away, but you can prepare.

2.  Consider waiting to start until after the holidays.  If you have children, this is probably a good idea, unless there are safety issues or a danger of financial loss.  Filing before or during the holidays will certainly be upsetting for children.

3.  Take steps to keep this away from the children.  Whatever difficulties you are having with your spouse should not be discussed with or near the children.  Adult matters should be kept away from the children.  They need to enjoy their holiday time without being pulled into a divorce.

4.  Take steps to protect your interests.  
  • Gather your financial records.  Figure out how you can obtain some cash or credit to pay for professional expenses and your living expenses if you get cut off financially by your spouse. You can start listing and photographing property that you want to preserve or have counted in a property division.
  • Start quietly gathering up or at least locating important personal items, such as jewelry, photos, guns, collections, etc.  You don't need to hide things, but you should find the items you want.
  • Keep up your involvement with the kids.  Holidays have lots of activities for children at school or at your religious institution.  Be sure you show up, help and be an active parent. Also, spend time playing with your children. It's fun for you and the kids.
5.  Go to counseling.  If you are undecided, counseling can help you sort out your issues and feelings. If both you and your spouse have decided to file after the holidays, counseling can help you deal with on-going stresses.  If you have decided to file, but your spouse doesn't know, a counselor can help you be confident in your decision and help you plan ahead for difficult times during and after the holidays.  

While I can't promise that you will be happy during the holidays, the above steps will help you reduce the stress of the pre-divorce situation and make the holidays more bearable. Best Wishes!

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