It’s November 1st… “All I want for Christmas” was on every radio station at 12 a.m., Target stores have rapidly replaced all Halloween aisles with winter holiday decor, the rush to shopping begins, and we start to think about our resolutions for next year. Yes, it’s that quick! While the holidays sometimes bring feelings of warmth and memories, they can also be a very difficult time for anyone experiencing hardship in their lives, whether financial, familial, recent loss of a loved one, and, of course, during and after a divorce. We cannot take lightly the way in which divorce can change the dynamics of the holiday season. Hopefully, these ten tips will help alleviate some of that stress, whether this is the first separated holiday season or one of many. While they may seem logical, sometimes logic escapes us and we are all guilty of that!

  1. Keep the holidays about the children! As adults, we know that the holidays come and go, will be back next year, some are great and some not so great. We hope that our children are a little less jaded and we’d like to keep it that way!
  2. Plan the time sharing arrangements for holidays in advance. Heck, if the whole capitalism society is transitioning to the holiday season now, there is no better time to raise the issue of scheduling for Thanksgiving and December holidays if not already scheduled, and where possible. Keep in mind that Courts do not love an emergent application about holiday scheduling on the eve of the holiday – where is the emergency when the holidays are the same date (or around the same date for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah) every year? This will also give your children peace of mind to know where they are spending Thanksgiving, various Hanukkah nights, Christmas Eve/Day and New Year’s Eve/Day.
  3. If possible, discuss gifts with your former (or soon to be former) spouse. Each family/parent has their own idea about what is or is not appropriate in terms of volume and cost. Try to avoid duplicates and stay in the same range if you can. While it makes sense when kids get a duplicate gift from two different friends at a birthday party who did not confer with each other, it may show kids that their parents are not on the same page if they both gift the same item. Some separated parents may even choose to jointly gift, but this will only work if both parents agree – it cannot be forced and will not be required.
  4. Save your comments on how happy you are to not have to see Aunt Jane or Uncle John on mom/dad’s side because of the separation… at least when in earshot of your children! Your children are building memories with both sides of their family and this should be encouraged from both sides of their family, and extended family members. In the same vein, if you hear an extended family member speak ill of your child’s other parent, you should step in and change the tune. Show interest in what the children did with their other parent, without interrogating.
  5. Have fun! Try your best to not let a separation, divorce, new step-parent, or any combination, get in the way of enjoying your favorite time during the holidays, whatever that may be. Our children are generally our priority at all times of the year, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve some self-care during the winter holidays! There is a light at the end of the tunnel if you are first divorcing, there will never be a first separated holiday again if this is your first, and so on. So, enjoy, reset and get ready for a new year!


Lindsay A. Heller is a partner in the firm’s Family Law practice, based in its Morristown, NJ office. You can reach Lindsay at 973.548.3318 or

Lindsay A. Heller, Associate, Fox Rothschild LLP