Issues surrounding divorce and separation understandably intensify during the holiday season. The attorneys at FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL PC offer advice on situations you or a loved one may be facing.


How do I rethink my plans and expectations about divorce during the holidays?


Neil M.E. Forester Family Law AttorneyNEIL FORESTER

Litigating a divorce case is stressful. Litigating a divorce case during the holiday season is a nightmare. During the time of year where all of society is extolling the joy and warmth of family, the painful personal and emotional experience of a divorce can be elevated exponentially. I frequently counsel clients against starting major fights around the holiday season for this very reason. But pragmatically, clients need to understand that most other family law attorneys take the entire month of December off – which means that nothing in the case can get done without the other side’s agreement. And many judges also take time off over the holidays. For these practical reasons, it’s generally a good idea to expect a holiday “cease fire” in the litigation proceedings. This makes even better sense when children are involved. Let them enjoy the spirit of the season without the stress that comes with bickering parents.


Jenny Bain 220 x 220 Website 386JENNY BAIN

Be aware of the sometimes competing vacation and holiday provisions within a court order. Generally a court order will give each parent a designated amount of holidays, and each parent a designated amount of vacations. In the past, I have seen one parent decide to exercise their vacation days during the other parent’s holiday. This results in one parent seeking court intervention to determine whose parenting time takes precedent. Generally speaking, a parent’s holiday time takes precedent over another parent’s vacation time. The take-away is to plan early, and to the extent possible, communicate with the other parent about scheduling ahead of time so as not to make a child’s holiday memories consumed by conflict.


Kristin-Capritto-Attorney-ThumbnailKRISTIN CAPRITTO (Estate Planning)

Holidays are inherently stressful for a multitude of reasons. If you are recently divorced, currently divorcing, or presently considering separation, normal holiday stress can be exponentially compounded. However, divorce isn’t the only tragic life altering event that can compound holiday sadness.  The loss of a loved one over the course of the last year can hit even harder during the holidays—how can you celebrate being together when that is physically no longer possible? How do you deal with traditions which may go unfulfilled?  Do you still hang their stocking? Who will light the menorah? Sit at the head of the table? Carve the turkey? Hang the Christmas lights?  Just the idea of many of these realities can be debilitating for those in grief.

If you are experiencing holiday sadness as the result of the loss of a loved one, speak with a grief counselor, or perhaps your clergy, before the holidays begin to gain some insight on mechanisms to help your through. Don’t feel as though you “owe” it to anyone to put on a happy face, or make the best of it.  Allow yourself time to be sad, allow yourself the space to process your despair. Yes, time heals. But you aren’t in way obligated to speed up your bereavement because Santa is on his way, or because it is time to make latkes.


MICHELLE STOWELLmichelle-stowell

During and after a divorce is a time to create new family traditions. If you are on decent terms with your ex, you may be able to have joint holidays for the sake of the kids. At the very least, try to coordinate with your ex so that the children don’t feel as if they are choosing sides and making one parent feel left out. Even if the parenting plan is spelled out in the court order, be flexible wherever possible. Encourage your children to have a good time wherever they are. Remember, these are the memories your children will carry with them into adulthood. Hopefully you can help make them good memories or, at the very least, not bad ones.



Divorce is difficult enough, but the anxiety and animosity of a divorce can be seriously exaggerated by the holiday season. Most people have routines and family traditions that they want to pass down to their children. Having a shared holiday plan with the other parent can make those traditions difficult to continue, and can be a source of frustration.  It can be difficult to compromise, but the most important thing is for the children to have happy, engaged parents through the holidays rather than bitter, feuding parents.  If it means modifying old traditions, or starting new ones, the children won’t mind if they get to be kids and enjoy the holidays with both of their parents.



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

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