Managing a Divorce During the Holidays was last modified: November 20th, 2018 by Howard Iken

divorce during the holidays

Discussion: Tips for Handling Divorce During the Holidays

Robert Napper

robert napper


Welcome to the Ayo & Iken legal roundtable. We tackle the toughest legal issues with down-to-earth commentary you can use from our expert panel of attorneys which spans Florida from Tampa Bay to Orlando and Miami.


In this edition, I will be discussing managing the already tumultuous process of getting a divorce and child care issues when coupled with the holiday season. Many view the holidays as a time for joyous family celebrations, but it is well-documented that for some, holidays can be a time of heightened loneliness, stress, financial duress, and excessive consumption of alcohol. It can lead to volatile emotions especially for those in the midst of, or just completing a divorce, particularly if there are children involved.


I have discussed with our attorneys some of the issues people may face as they traverse a family law case during the holidays. I chatted with Ayo & Iken Tampa Attorney and Partner Jeana Vogel, Attorneys Bruce Przepis and Howard Ellzey in New Port Richey, and Tampa Attorney Lee Feinberg. Here is what we discussed:


Bruce Przepis

Bruce Przepis

I think the issue that comes up by far the most around this time of year is problems with child time-sharing. Usually, problems arise in cases where the parents have no agreement in place as to where the children are going to go at different times. Or they have a dispute, for example, over who has a child on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Many times there are also issues concerning taking care of the children during the holiday school break.

Robert Napper

robert napper

It sounds like planning ahead for those situations is important. Is that the case?

Bruce Przepis

Bruce Przepis

Absolutely. My best advice would be to address these issues as early as possible because if an agreement cannot be worked out, it may be possible to get in front of a judge on an emergency or expedited basis.

Howard Iken

howard-iken-2

People are at the peak of nervousness and irrationality duing the holiday season. More communication is always better than less. Misunderstandings are at a peak so it is best to get clear agreements in writing. Email is great for that.

Howard Ellzey

Timing is so important. Folks that are in the middle of trying to get a time-sharing plan for the first time have no order in place, so if the parties are incapable of communicating with each other, they may need go through attorneys to work it out.

Robert Napper

robert napper

Should you take your spouse or ex-spouse’s word for it when it comes to an agreement concerning the children?

Bruce Przepis

Bruce Przepis

I would get any agreement in writing and approved by court order, otherwise beware. In fact, some judges will keep time open on their calendars close to Christmas as they anticipate parties needing to get in to obtain an order.

Lee Feinberg

Lee Feinberg

I have seen those issues as well over and over in my career. It can make for a very sad situation when a parent is not allowing visitation during the holidays. I can’t stress enough that both parents need time with their children. The holidays can also be difficult if there is an agreement in place and people are not abiding by it. Judges, like many people, take vacation time during the holidays and therefore are not available for hearings. It can be very frustrating.

Jeana Vogel

Jeana Vogel

I couldn’t agree more when it comes to thinking ahead. If the holidays are important to you or your spouse, then it is important that you have a mutual understanding and agreement about how the holidays will be shared if you have children. The earlier you make the plans, the less stressful the holiday will hopefully be. That way, if you are not able to work out the plans between you and your spouse, you can ask your attorney for assistance.

Robert Napper

robert napper

Are there certain parameters when it comes to travel plans with children?

Howard Iken

howard-iken-2

The most important thing to do is to give the other parent travel itineraries. You never want to be accused of hiding the children or depriving the other parent of holiday time.

Jeana Vogel

Jeana Vogel

It is more about evaluating a person’s particular situation. You should evaluate how you hope to spend your future holidays and if travel is something you may like to do with the children. If so, you should consider requesting to alternate the entire Thanksgiving break and the entire Winter Break (or at least 1st/2nd half) to allow the opportunity for travel. If you are going to agree to split Thanksgiving break or Christmas Day, that results in a short period of time in between the other parent’s time sharing, which makes travel impractical.

Robert Napper

robert napper

Are there any holiday-related emotional issues you see with people who have divorced or are separated?

Jeana Vogel

Jeana Vogel

It is important to remember that what may have been a “family tradition” while you and your spouse were together may not be a tradition he/she wishes to continue now that you are separated. Each parent is entitled to celebrate the holidays as he/she wishes during his/her time-sharing with the child(ren).

Lee Feinberg

Lee Feinberg

What I see a lot is one party “out spending” the other with gifts, trying to buy the affections of the children. I think that can be very unfair and cause resentment.

Jeana Vogel

Jeana Vogel

I agree, you should be mindful not to go overboard with spending and keep in line with what you have done historically in the past during the marriage.

Robert Napper

robert napper

Can what you spend on holiday gifts affect other aspects of your divorce?

Jeana Vogel

Jeana Vogel

It can. For example, if you are claiming a financial hardship such as need for alimony or inability to pay alimony, then it is important that your spending reflect that hardship. So you should not be able to give gifts of the same caliber financially than you were able to during the marriage.

Robert Napper

robert napper

What if a person is dating someone new and wants to buy him or her a gift?

Jeana Vogel

Jeana Vogel

Be very cautious on how much you spend on new relationships if you are in the middle of a family law case. The court will not look kindly if it is claimed your children or spouse went without something they should be entitled to while you have spent a pretty penny on a gift for a new romantic interest.

Howard Ellzey

That is a very important point. I have seen so many sad cases where a parent leaves and has left no support and the kids have nothing in their stockings. So it is very important that people continue to support their family even if there is anger with the spouse.

Robert Napper

robert napper

I am sure a lot of people are dealing with these issues now that we are in the middle of holiday season. Thank you for this timely discussion. That is a wrap for another of our Ayo & Iken Roundtable discussions. Have a great holiday season!

Our specialized content, video, and other informative media are based on input from Ayo and Iken team members,  outside guests, former team members of Ayo and Iken, independent journalists, and subject-matter authorities. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Ayo and Iken. Attorneys that are not current team members at Ayo and Iken may be reached through their member listing on the Florida Bar website: www.flabar.org



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