THE BLOG
12/20/2012 01:42 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2013

Should I File For Divorce Before Or After The Holidays?

An important question this time of the year it isn't so much "should I file for divorce," but rather "when should I file for divorce?" Weighing the pros and cons of filing for divorce before or after the holidays is extremely common. People recognize that not only will the divorce impact their family unit, but also that the timing could taint future celebrations if filed prior to the holidays.

There are several reasons people choose to file for divorce before the holidays, and these are some of the most common:

1. They can't stand to spend one more holiday with their spouse. Faking civility with your spouse in your own home is hard enough, but faking it in public can be downright impossible. With the holidays comes social gatherings and situations, and people decide they can't expose themselves to these occasions for one more year. Whether it is a spouse who drinks too much, speaks negatively about the other spouse at parties, or is completely antisocial, a decision is made that enough is enough.

2. They can't stand to spend one more holiday with their spouse's family. Every family has its own issues. Although spouses may be willing to put up with their extended family's "issues" when they are getting along, their willingness to acquiesce when they are on the verge of divorce is zero.

3. It will make a difference in the divorce. Most jurisdictions have a waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. If you live in a state that has a one-year waiting period, you may not want to "wait" until 2014 to get divorced. Likewise, if you live in a state where it is customary to get temporary orders, there may be a good reason to get the divorce and temporary orders on file before the end of the year. Another consideration may be the date that the marital estate is valued, as that date will vary based on your jurisdiction. Thus, if the valuation date in your jurisdiction is the date the divorce action is filed, and you have specific reasons you want the valuation date to be sooner rather than later, 2012 may be the year.

4. Their spouse gives lousy holiday gifts anyway. Don't kid yourself. If there is trouble in a relationship, people do think about the gift they will receive if they just stick it out. While the gift will obviously not keep the relationship together, it can most definitely be a factor in the decision of whether to file for divorce before or after the holidays.

Similarly, there are many reasons that people choose to file after the holidays, but more often than not, the reason people hold off on filing for divorce is because of the children. Below are some of the most frequent explanations as to why people think that waiting to file for divorce after the holidays will be better for the children:

1. They don't want to ruin the holidays for their children. Without a doubt, this is the number one reason people choose to wait to file after the holidays. While the concept is altruistic, I always wonder about the reality. In other words, are the parents able to be civil to each other over the holiday, or can you cut the tension with a knife? I can't say it enough, children are really smart. They pick up all sorts of cues. Just because parents aren't verbally sparring doesn't mean the children don't recognize that mom and dad aren't getting along. Perhaps instead of waiting to file for divorce so the holidays aren't ruined, parents should consider whether the way they interact will actually ruin the holidays for the children.

2. They don't want to share their kids over the holidays. Concerns about having to share children over the holidays are very real, and often a deterrent to filing for divorce before the holidays. However, a parent's concern about having to share his or her children over the holidays begs the question of, "what is in the best interest of the children?" Although there is no question that it is in the best interest of children to reside in a happy home with both parents, the circumstance of parents contemplating the timing of a divorce does not tend to lend itself to a "happy" home.

3. They have a great family trip planned during the holidays. Whether it is because the children are really excited about the trip, or neither parent wants to bow out, a family trip is a common reason to hold off on filing for divorce until after the holiday season. The interesting phenomenon is that parents choose to act like an intact family for the trip, only to come home and confuse the children by proceeding with divorce.

Regardless of when a spouse chooses to file for divorce, it is a very hard decision. If you don't have a specific reason why you need to file before the holidays, I would urge you to consider waiting until after the holidays. The stress of the holidays can truly cause people to do things they wouldn't normally do during other times of the year, including filing for divorce. Even if you are at the place of "enough is enough," haven't you been there before? This can't be the first season you've been resistant to spend the holidays with your spouse, or haven't wanted to be with your spouse's family.

However, keep in mind that if you are going to give your children one last gift of having the family together for the holidays, put on your happy face without giving your children the false sense of security that mom and dad will be together forever.