“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is a Christmas classic song, but for people in an unhappy marriage, the lyrics ring false. The joy-filled holiday seasons of the past become distant memories, and the many emotions you feel might have you wondering whether the best “gift” for yourself is a Christmastime divorce. Before making that decision, it’s wise to talk over such a serious, life-changing action with the most trustworthy people in your life and seek the advice of outside experts, such as an accountant and an experienced divorce lawyer.
Should You Get Divorced at Christmas?
A Yuletide divorce might make sense or it might be better to wait. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there are several factors to consider:
Reasons to Stay Together During the Holidays
Continuity for your children: If the spike in January divorce filings is any indication, many parents choose to wait until after the holidays to legally end a marriage. Children, notably younger ones, thrive on routine, and the disruption a divorce announcement may bring to favourite family holiday traditions could have lasting emotional consequences. Or, a holiday divorce might result in a spouse returning to the workplace at a time when kids most especially value their parents’ presence. The tradeoff of enduring one last difficult Christmas season for the sake of children’s wellbeing is one many parents are willing to make.
Finances: Divorce affects household finances any time of the year as a shared income becomes two separate ones or a spouse returns to the workplace. A Christmas divorce, however, is also a year-end divorce that carries additional considerations: living on one income when spending is usually at a high; a desire to mutually benefit from year-end work bonuses; and possibly certain tax implications.
Time for reflection: The holiday season, under the best of circumstances, is a busy time filled with many activities and emotions. In a low-conflict household, holding off divorce action until the New Year gives a spouse time to make decisions, talk with trusted confidants and plan for the future
Reasons to Separate Before the Holidays
An abusive or high-tension living situation: If you are being physically or emotionally abused by your spouse, for your safety and that of any children, don’t be concerned that a separation will “ruin” the holidays. Talk to your healthcare provider, a family lawyer or a social services professional about the safe place options available to you.
Similarly, if you and your spouse argue constantly, attempts at presenting a happy family front will likely fool no one. Many parents learned years later from their children that their holiday divorce was less stressful on them than a miserable Christmas season filled with bickering.
Your personal well-being. The stress of an unhappy marriage can take physical, mental and emotional tolls. That stress, in turn, can result in unhealthy behaviours, such as drinking too much alcohol, overeating or neglecting self-care in other ways. For some people, filing for divorce during the holidays brings much-needed relief and hope for a brighter future.
What is the Best Time of Year for a Divorce?
Anecdotally, divorce filings tend to increase in January – March and again in July and August. The early year timing may reflect the desire for a fresh start and to avoid a December filing that overshadows holiday joy. The summer months are often chosen because parents want their children settled in for a new school year.
However, the best time of the year for a divorce, according to child psychologist Judith S. Wallerstein, writing in Divorce Magazine, is less about the calendar and more about the family situation. A violent or continuously high-conflict marriage should be exited as soon as possible. A generally compatible couple with children might decide to remain in the marriage until certain vulnerable ages (such as preschool or early adolescence) have passed.
How to Help Children Through This Difficult Time
With every divorce, whenever it happens, it’s important for each spouse to practice self-care in healthy ways – seek counselling if needed, exercise, enjoy good food in moderation and take time for him or herself. When there are children involved, the divorcing parents have an even greater responsibility – to help their sons and/or daughters get through an often painful time in their young lives. The help could take the form of counselling sessions or finding an age-appropriate support group for children of divorce.
There are also practical ways divorced parents can support their children – especially during the holidays:
Abide by the agreed-upon custody arrangements. Holidays can become a battleground when there’s not a specific plan agreed to by each parent. Family lawyers can help the two sides reach a fair schedule – such as the children spend Christmas Eve with Dad and Christmas with Mom and then rotate the plan the following year. Once a plan is made, stick to it, barring true emergencies.
Be courteous: A marriage can end, but the bond of parenthood lasts forever. Divorced parents who can demonstrate courtesy and respect toward their ex-partner keep the peace in the current day but also provide an example for their children to model as they enter their own relationships.
Chadi & Company: Compassionate Counsel When You’re Contemplating Divorce
Many people enter marriage with the highest hopes of “happily ever after.” When the union doesn’t work out as you planned, it’s important to find trustworthy and knowledgeable legal counsel. Chadi & Company, which has been serving clients in Edmonton and throughout Western Canada since 1991, has experienced family lawyers who understand both Canadian divorce law and the human aspects ending a marriage can bring. They advocate for you throughout the divorce process and do all they can to achieve the best possible outcome. If you’re thinking about a divorce, Chadi & Company offers a free, confidential consultation either over the phone or online. You can complete our user-friendly form or call us at (780) 429-2300 for more information and to schedule your consultation.