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Children, Holidays and Divorce
December 6th, 2012

The holidays are a joyous time for many families with children. They can, however, be a time of great strife and anguish for families in the midst of a divorce.

Your divorce is not the end of your life. It’s not the end of your family. It’s not the end of your happiness. It’s not the end of your holidays. Things in your life will change, but you will definitely get back to joy. In order to retrieve the joy, there are some steps that you should take. Let’s start with the “ideal” situation.

Ideally, you and your spouse put your children first. You and your spouse call a truce and somehow manage to spend the holiday together without fighting or (too much) awkwardness. Despite no longer wanting to be married, recall that each of you is a good parent. Remind extended family members to mind their manners and show kindness during this time.

If the “ideal” is not your situation, for most, it is not, you should take certain legal steps to ensure you have secured specific times with your children during the holidays. Knowing the schedule and the plan in advance of the holiday will make for a calm holiday. Do not wait until December 23 to confirm your custodial time for Christmas. If you do, you could find yourself without your children during the holiday. Your custodial times should either be confirmed in writing between your respective family lawyers or should be established via court order if you and your spouse are unable to agree. The need to establish your custodial times by a court order can take weeks, so contact your divorce attorney well in advance of your holiday.

In both Bucks and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania, judges often order that holidays be alternated annually. Thus, if you celebrated Thanksgiving with your children last year, your spouse will celebrate that holiday with the children this year.

Comply with the times that have been set forth in the agreement or court order. Perhaps you and your spouse do not get along with one another, but the holidays are not the time to show any displeasure with one another.

Children are experiencing a major upheaval in their lives. If you are capable of doing so, continue traditions they have enjoyed. If the children have always attended a particular celebration with your spouse’s family, allow the children to attend. If you are capable of doing so, create new traditions. Loneliness may embrace you during the holidays. Your children are not, however, responsible for making you less lonely. Find friends and acquaintances to join or enjoy the quiet.

Remember that the holiday belongs to your children.

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