Once December arrives, many of my divorce clients want to reach their settlement agreement and/or be divorced before the holiday break begins. Holidays can be emotional for some and, when added with the stress of working through a divorce, the work with professionals can be counter-productive. The added stress may make it harder to reach a resolution. However, using a non-adversarial process, such as Collaborative Divorce, enables clients to work with one or more of the professionals on the Collaborative Team to decide what work is needed, if any, over the holidays and how stress can be minimized so the holidays can be peaceful and meaningful.
The desire to have things finalized is usually due to the fact that a client wants to put the divorce matter behind them and start the New Year afresh. Some feel stress if they believe the matter will be put on hold for a few weeks due to clients or professionals being away for the holidays. The Collaborative Professionals working with the clients can assess what needs to be done sooner than later and develop a plan to address those issues.
A client may not anticipate the stress that may arise with trying to reach a resolution under a deadline. Schedules for the clients and the professionals may be tight. Holiday gatherings – family, extended family, friends and professional engagements – can fill the calendars and make it difficult for all to focus on the issues and block out time to get the work done.
In addition, some courts set deadlines in early to mid-December that require all divorce paperwork to be complete and submitted if the divorce is to be entered before the end of the year. The Collaborative Attorneys can advise the clients regarding realistic expectations about what work remains and realistic timing for the work to be done. If working on the actual court filing for an uncontested no-fault divorce, the attorneys can also outline the process and timing options so the team can map out a plan. A Case Manager on the Collaborative Team can coordinate everyone’s schedules in advance and determine what meetings need to be scheduled and when.
For many, the holidays can be a time filled with mixed emotions. Parents may feel a loss if they are unable to continue with the same traditions they enjoyed as a married couple in the past. If there are children, the parents and children may be wondering what it is going to feel like – that it will no longer be the same. Extended family and friends may apply pressure by asserting their wishes to finalize holiday plans and whether both spouses are still invited and would want to attend. Working with a Divorce Coach and/or Child Specialist on the Collaborative Team can help the parties discuss what the holidays will be like and how the parties can talk about the divorce with others in a way that is non-divisive. Good planning can help for smoother holidays.
On occasion, there may be a financial reason that could relate to the divorce timing. If a divorce is final before January 1st, the parties are not able to file “married status” even though they may have been married and sharing finances for a large portion of the year. It is possible that the change in legal status – married versus single – may lead to an opportunity to save on taxes due to change in tax filing status. Some may want their new cash flow to begin at the new calendar year (and the cash flow may be related to estimated taxes, withholdings, etc.) The clients can meet with the Neutral Financial Specialist on the Collaborative Divorce team to discuss tax analysis and planning so that they are making educated choices about what needs to be done and when.
Divorce can be stressful regardless of the time of the year. Why compound the stress by setting arbitrary deadlines that may not be manageable or will make the holidays harder for the family?
It is best to use Collaborative Divorce Professionals to identify what is needed and when. In the meantime, if work needs to be done over the holidays, the team can coordinate what the work is and who is available to work with the clients. The goal should be to use the team to support the family through the holidays and to help the clients see the whole picture so they can make the best decisions as they transition through the change in their family.