By Amber Steiss Rechner
Divorce is not easy at any time of the year. However, it can become especially difficult when dealing with the stress of the holidays on top of it.
Here are five divorce tips for men that may make navigating divorce during the holidays more sensible and more survivable.
1. Ensure you are properly prepared for the holiday custody schedule.
Many states have standard holiday schedules, or you and your spouse may have come to an agreement inside or outside of court for possession of and access to the children over the holidays.
Be sure to get out your divorce settlement, divorce decree, or other court order and review it well in advance of the upcoming holiday. Be sure that you know the times and dates of all custody exchanges, where they should occur, and who is allowed to be present. Follow the agreement specifically and get any alternative arrangements in writing from your spouse beforehand.
If you are planning on traveling with the children, make sure that you have all you need from your spouse for any travel documents, that you obtain written consent for the travel, and that you are not including any inappropriate people on the trip (such as a significant other who is prohibited from being an overnight guest while you have your children).
Make sure your kids have everything they will need for their time with your spouse. The back and forth may be strange for them, and it will comfort them to have everything they need and a reminder of you while they are away.
Discuss presents and possible budget constraints with your spouse or ex spouse beforehand to ensure uniformity for the children and avoid awkward situations.
2. What if there is no order in place for the holidays? What do I need to be concerned about with the children?
If there is no court order in place, either parent is entitled to take the children. Be wary of allowing the children to go out of state or out of the country with your spouse, as they may have plans not to return.
International parental kidnapping is an all too common nightmare, especially if your spouse has residency in another country that is not a member of the Hague Convention. Be sure you keep tight reins on the children’s passports, and try and get any plans from your spouse as to the holiday period in writing.
3. Is it ok to have my significant other present during holiday parenting time?
The divorce process can be long and lonely. If you have moved on and begun to date another person, do not make the mistake of taking your children around this person or talking about them around the children.
Children are very sensitive to anyone they perceive as intruding on their parent’s territory, and may resent both you and this other person if they become aware of their existence. The holiday season is an especially sensitive time for the children as they may not have had to have a holiday with their parents separately before.
Both you and your spouse should speak with the children together before the holiday if possible, and try to explain to them your plans together.
Remember that children may blame whomever “breaks the news” so it is best that the two of you co-parent and make two separate holidays a fun opportunity for the children. Be prepared for backlash and to get the children any counseling they may need.
4. Don’t violate general rules the court may have.
Many courts have what are called “standing orders” or “local rules” that may apply to behavior during a divorce case. Most of these rules go into effect immediately upon the filing of the divorce, and are binding on the parties immediately.
Make sure that you carefully read these orders and be sure to follow them. Many courts make standard orders that you not disparage the other parent around the children or limit what type of expenses you incur while the case is pending. It’s best to assume that everything you do will be watched and made known to the court.
Thus, you should be careful not to spend money on any significant others, waste money or incur debt in your spouse’s name, divert their mail, or make it difficult to see the children. It’s unhealthy for you and likely will harm your case in the long run.
5. Above all, put the children’s needs first, and do your best to get through this time.
Nothing about divorce is easy. Make sure that you and your children are healthy, both mentally and emotionally. Take this time to ensure that you are receiving all necessary support you need.
Above all, make sure that the children feel safe and as comfortable as they can be in this difficult process. The more you do in their best interest, the more likely the court will be to look at you favorably.