January is the busiest time for most divorce lawyers. There is a simple reason for this.  Many couples put off divorce and child custody plans until after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.   A primary driver for this decision is an effort to not upset the children during what should normally be a joyous and celebratory time of year.  Another thought is given to a connection between the new year and it being a time for a “fresh start” in life.  Still others are hopeful that a spiritual, familial, and loving connection to the holidays may breath life back into a dying relationship.

Make no mistake, though.  Whatever the reasons, divorce after the holidays is a long standing cycle which coincides with the holiday season.  Thanksgiving rolls into Christmas rolls into divorce.  Just ask a divorce and child custody attorney.

Those who desire to initiate the divorce often struggle with feelings of guilt.  It’s bad enough that hopes and dreams for a long, health, happy family life are coming undone.  Starting such proceedings during the holiday season can have disruptive impact beyond just the household and bring sadness and fear to friends and family during a time that is normally about bringing people together in happiness.   So, it’s an annual tradition for those intending to divorce to manage themselves through the holiday period and deal with it after they’ve put on a “happy front” for everyone else.

Oh, but it’s about the kids, too.  Particularly when they are young, the holiday season is supposed to be a magical time of year. Avoiding starting the divorce wheels in motion until after the holidays holds the guilt of disrupting the kids happiness at bay. Even when couples have already made the decision to divorce, just before or during the holidays are the least likely times that they will initiate the divorce proceedings.   It’s also helpful in the minds of the parents that the return to a regular school schedule after New Year’s provides an appropriate distraction for the children once the divorce and child custody process gets underway.

Despite all of these seemingly sound reasons for holding off the initiation of divorce proceedings, that reality slap-in-the-face is always going to be there.  Though it’s hard to fault a couple for considering that maybe the holidays can rescue a faltering relationship, the reality is that the holidays in and of themselves can bring an increase in the level of stress, arguments, and resentment.  Consider the negatives:

  • The reality that the divorce is going to happen isn’t lost on anybody.  This means the children, too.  Further, feigning happiness and love can give the children a false sense of hope and increase the harshness of the “crash” back to reality after the holidays.
  • There is stress associated with all of the running around town, the buying of gifts, the making of plans, and the preparation of food.  Worse, it will invariably lead to an increased debt load, which is something that should absolutely be avoided when heading for a divorce.
  • Oftentimes, extended family members are well-aware of the marital circumstances, which can lead to family arguments or the inverse – everyone walking on eggshells to avoid it.  Neither makes for much of a good time.
  • Hopelessness and depression can increase substantially as you muddle your way through the holidays in full view of big smiles, happy families, camaraderie, and love when the end of your relationship is a foregone conclusion.  This can actually lead to serious physical ailments as a result.

As difficult as it may be, you really shouldn’t wait until after the holidays for many of the reasons detailed above and many more.  The holidays can be difficult and stressful enough under the best of circumstances, but with a divorce looming, it becomes exponentially worse.  No matter your best intentions, the suffering of you, your children, your family, and your friends is going to be no more or less before the holidays than it will after.

If there is one possible upside to starting divorce and child custody proceedings ahead of the holiday season – both parties might find themselves motivated to get things taken care of; division of community property, agreement to divorce, and a workable parenting agreement or child custody arrangement.  If you are fortunate enough in that regard and can get all of that in place in advance of the holidays – you may hopefully enjoy them without the specter of divorce hanging over everyone’s heads.  It’s a gift you can give yourself, your ex-spouse, and all of those who are impacted by the divorce during the holiday season.