Making Holiday Plans Before a Divorce
Going through a divorce is always difficult, but it can be especially trying during the holidays. You may still be living together, still have to discuss your divorce with your children, or have to put up with a million questions from family members. Once you add in hurt feelings or looming financial issues, your holiday season can go from a joyful occasion to an utter nightmare. But there are ways to keep your upcoming divorce from ruining the holiday spirit.
Keep It Civil
One of the biggest fears parents have during a divorce is the effect it can have on their children. At any age, a child can be extremely sensitive to a divorce, and the holidays rarely ever lighten this issue. For the sake of your children, talk to your soon-to-be-ex-spouse about setting aside your divorce and focusing on your children. You may discuss certain ground rules, such as not discussing your divorce openly or setting limits on gifts, in order to avoid any fights or hurt feelings. If you can work together to get through this period without any major arguments, it may set the tone for your divorce proceedings. However, remember that the opposite is also true, and any issues that arise over the holidays can also affect your case, especially when it comes to child custody.
Limit Your Budget
Holiday spending is a huge issue for any family, but a divorce can add on a massive amount of stress. Whether you are trying to budget for gifts or planning a party, you should consider keeping a tight rein on your spending. When it comes time to divide your property, you and your soon-to-be-ex will have to take a deep dive into your finances to determine what is separate and marital property. If you overspend during the holidays, you will have less money to divide during your divorce. Creating and sticking to a budget can protect you down the line.
Treat It Like a Genuine Holiday
For most families, the holiday season means big gatherings and parties, often over multiple days with a variety of households. However, there is no reason you cannot keep your gatherings small this year, especially if you are in the midst of a divorce. Remember, you are not under any obligation to host a holiday party or attend any event if you feel it will be too stressful. Instead, think about skipping the gatherings for a year and enjoying your time off work. Your soon-to-be-ex-spouse may agree that taking a genuine break is in everyone’s best interest. It may also give you more time to spend with your kids.
Consider Splitting the Holiday
If you are still living together and do not have children, one solution may be to spend the holidays apart. Whether this means only visiting your own family or taking a vacation, time apart can help you avoid many of the pitfalls of a divorce, such as arguments. There is no rule that you have to spend the holidays together or keep up the appearance of a still being a couple, so using the holidays as “me time” could be to your benefit. Even if you have children, this may be a good chance to practice joint custody by splitting the amount of time each of you gets to have with them, or splitting events.
Be Careful With Gifts
Gifts are a complicated topic when filing for a divorce in California. Most people are unaware of how they are categorized under the law and when they are considered separate or marital property, but we are here to set the record straight.
For one, any gift given by another family member who is not your spouse is considered separate property so long as it was only gifted to you. For example, if your mother knitted you a sweater, that would be considered your sole property. However, if your mother gifted you and your spouse a new TV, then that would be considered marital property.
In addition, if your spouse gives you a gift, then it is considered marital property in most cases. This means that the court could require you two to divide up any gifts you gave each other during your marriage. But, if your spouse gave you the gift after your date of separation, then it is sole property and cannot be divided in a divorce.
Lastly, many parents risk falling into gifting wars when it comes to children. Maybe one of you overspends on a child’s gift in order to win favor. Or you offer a child bigger and better gifts to bribe him or her to side with you during a divorce. Gift-giving can quickly become bribery and result in accusations of parental alienation if you are not careful. Instead, just as with the holiday budget, sit down with your soon-to-be-ex and discuss how to properly budget for your children’s gifts without going overboard.
Ultimately, do your best to work together during this difficult period. Holiday arguments can be an omen of bigger issues down the line, and you will want to avoid them at all costs; otherwise, your divorce can turn contentious. In either situation, the San Diego divorce lawyers at Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C., can provide sound legal guidance throughout every step of your divorce. We have extensive experience representing clients in contentious and complex divorces to ensure positive outcomes. If you need legal representation in your divorce, call our office at (858) 458-9500 to discuss your case.