Whether you’re in a blended, separated, recently divorced, or single-parent family, it’s never too early to plan for the holidays. The divorce lawyers at FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL PC offer some reminders to help you make the most of the seasons.

 

Neil M.E. Forester Family Law AttorneyNEIL FORESTER

For those going through a divorce, the end of the calendar year is important for any number of reasons – not just for holiday planning for parenting purposes, though. Tax planning should be added to the list of things to consider. Talk to your accountant about filing status (married filing jointly vs. married filing separately vs. single/head of household). If you have not yet gotten the divorce finalized and your spouse is not interested in filing jointly, you have the option of having the court dissolve the status of the marriage pending the resolution of all other issues (property, support, etc.). This is called a “bifurcation of marital status.” The IRS will look to your marital status on the last calendar day of the year to determine your possible filing status, so if your accountant believes that something other than “married filing separately” is better for you, then consider bifurcating the marital status now to take advantage come tax time.

 

MICHELLE STOWELLmichelle-stowell

Holidays are stressful in the best of times.  Throw a divorce into the mix and the stress level multiplies exponentially.  To help lessen the stress, be very clear in your custody agreement about both the exact time and location of the holiday custody exchange.  Saying that a custody exchange will occur “On the Christmas Eve” leaves a lot to be misinterpreted.  Better to say “On Christmas Eve, the custody exchange will occur at 7 pm at Mom’s house.”  If you and your ex are getting along, you absolutely can adjust this arrangement to a schedule that better fits your needs.  If you are not getting along, however, the court order is clear, so no game playing/ruined holiday plans can occur.  It is an oldie but a goodie – better safe than sorry.

 

Keeley L. Nickelson, Family Law AttorneyKEELEY NICKELSON

One important thing to remember is that your kids care less (if at all) about the date you celebrate a holiday than the time they spend celebrating it with you. The fact that your kids are with Dad on Christmas Eve and you on Christmas Day, for example, won’t be what they remember. They’ll remember the family time, the traditions, and the love, no matter the date. So, while it might be difficult for you if you aren’t celebrating Christmas on December 25, you can make Christmas just as special for your kids on the 24th or 26th.

 

MATTHEW PURCELL

Holiday plans, as with all parenting plans, should be focused on the children and not on the parents.  There is often conflict between the family traditions of each parent.  I have had many cases where the parties just wanted to fight to preserve their family traditions, regardless of the age or impact the conflict had on the children.  I constantly try to remind these clients that children do not care about what specific day their holiday celebrations occur.  In fact, most children would prefer to have more holidays to celebrate.  Two Christmas’?  Yes please!  If a holiday plan can’t accommodate all of the traditions of both parents, start new traditions.  Move old traditions to different times that fit within the parenting plan.  It isn’t the specific time or even the tradition that matters.  The children only want to have quality time to celebrate the holidays with both of their parents.

 

image of Rebeca C. Christianson, Family Law AttorneyREBECA CHRISTIANSON

This time of year often exposes glaring holes in a parenting plan. It is not unusual for parents to have a regular parenting plan that doesn’t include a holiday schedule. Very often, parents may decide to address the holiday schedule at a later date. If this is the case, then this is the time of year parents are scrambling to implement a holiday schedule. If parents are unable to agree, the only option is to file a Request for Order and attend child custody recommending counseling. If your parenting plan does not include a holiday schedule, now is the time address the issue.

 

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Based in Folsom, California, Forester Purcell Stowell PC can be reached at info@foresterpurcell.com or 916 293 4000. This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.

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