Divorce is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Getting through the holidays while experiencing the rigors of divorce only adds to the stress. When my family law clients are faced with the prospect filing for divorce during the holiday season, I tell them to follow the four commonsense rules below.
1. Keep Your Eye on the Clock
If clients are considering filing for divorce in November, alert them if your state requires a mandatory waiting period. Texas, for example, has a 60-day waiting period for divorces, unless you are in the military. Therefore, clients filing in November would not be able to finalize the divorce until the following year. Also, counsel clients to schedule in advance the time necessary to work with you to protect their interests. If your clients don’t consciously set aside this time, the opportunity might be lost in the holiday rush.
2. Focus on Your Children
Remind clients that divorce is always difficult on children—and only more so at this time of year. Emphasize the need to be mindful of their children’s feelings and to talk with them and support them in any way. There are many solutions to help not only the children, but the clients themselves and the rest of the family to survive the holidays no matter what the situation. For one, clients can create new traditions with their children, such as watching favorite movies together or playing sports as a family. (And it doesn’t hurt to burn off some of the holiday munchies with family sports.)
3. Let Yourself Be Happy
Let clients know that they can choose to be happy and enjoy the holidays. They don’t need to be miserable. Yes, they will be sad if the children are with the other parent during Thanksgiving, but advise them to focus on how happy they will be during the subsequent holidays when the children are with them. Also, please tell them to think of things they will be able to do that they could not have done had the children been with them now, such as going shopping peacefully without children screaming or not needing to rush home to cook. Always assure them that it is all right to treat themselves with nice dinners out and more!
4. Don’t Go Gift Crazy
Discourage “guilt shopping”—or competitive shopping to one-up the children’s other parent. If the soon-to-be ex buys expensive gifts or luxury vacations, let your clients know that they don’t need to do the same. Extravagant gifts will likely be forgotten after the holidays, but your client will still be stuck with a huge credit card bill.
Your clients can find ways to survive the holidays—and maybe even enjoy them—despite their divorce. Knowing they have a competent attorney looking out for their interests and the interests of their children will help alleviate the stress of divorce at this time of year.
Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 9, Number 4, November 2019. © 2019 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.