Recently, Katherine Ellis, a partner with The Harris Law Firm in Denver, Colorado, hosted a webinar titled, Name Changes in Family Law Cases: Whose Name Can You Change and How Do You Do It?

The attorneys at Harris Law Firm are experts at offering advice on divorce matters and this webinar is just one example of the kind of value they offer to clients and the general public. Thanks to Katy and her associates for such a relevant and insightful topic!

As a divorce mediator, changing a last name is of interest to my clients as well. A name change, for one of the divorcing parties, or their children, is a significant step and must be undertaken with the requisite seriousness and consideration it deserves.

Let’s first look at the instance of what a divorcing or divorced woman would need to do to change her last name. She may want to revert back to her maiden name or choose a completely new last name.

So how would she proceed in Colorado?

Step 1) Fingerprints

Step 2) Criminal History Check

Step 3) File Paperwork in the County Court where she lives

Step 4) Hearing (Depends on where you live)

Step 5) Publication (May be waived)

Step 6) Receive a Final Decree from the Court

Currently it costs $108 in fees and requires completion of four forms.

That seems like a lot of work, is there any easier way?

Yes, and the timing is crucial. It is easier and you CAN change your name BEFORE your divorce is final.

If you've just started the divorce process, the best way to restore your name is to check the box on your petition for divorce and provide your previous name. But, if you are responding to a petition for divorce ( JDF 1103), you need to provide your previous name. If you are filing an uncontested divorce pro se’ (without legal representation), and you do not have minor children you do not need to appear before a judge or magistrate. In this case, when completing the paperwork you will also need to advise the Court of your desire to restore your maiden name on form (JDF 1201) Affidavit For Decree Without Appearance of the Parties (Marriage).

Note this will only work if you are reverting back to your maiden name. If you wish to adopt a brand new last name, you will have to go through the formal process discussed above.

If you've done either way and wish to share your experience or weigh in, please do in the comments below. #divorce #namechange

As my last post talked about the reasons and considerations and process women face when changing their last names post divorce, this latest post is about changing the last names of children post divorce.

When does it make sense to change a child’s name and how do courts in Colorado approach these requests? What might be the long term repercussions of changing a child’s last name?

Instances where a last name change might be appropriate:

This is another instance where a court must be involved. The Court has the ability to change a child’s name pursuant to the divorce or an allocation of parental responsibilities case. Although there is no specific law giving the Court the power to change a child’s name in a divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities case, the Appellate Court has ruled that “The trial court has the power, founded in the common law, to order a change of name of a minor child…” In re Marriage of Nguyen, 684 P.2d 258 (Colo. App. 1983).

Another way to obtain a name change for your child would be to file a Petition for a Name Change pursuant to §13-15-101, C.R.S.

After the Petition is filed, a hearing will be set for the Court to determine if the name change is in the best interests of the minor child.   A court has wide discretion in ordering a change of name and should not deny an application unless special circumstances were found to exist. Hammon v. County of Jefferson, 753 P.2d 743 (Colo. 1988).

The Court can consider a number of factors to determine if a name change is in the best interests of a minor child as follows:

If you are a parent and have gone through a divorce, what are your thoughts about changing your child’s last name? Can you think of additional factors or considerations not listed above?

How Long Will My Divorce Take?

This is one of the most asked questions we hear at the Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado. It’s only natural to want some certainty during such an uncertain time in your life. You want to plan your post divorce future and understanding the timeline helps you do this. 

While we wish there was a definitive answer, the time it takes to divorce will depend on a few factors unique to you and your soon to be ex-spouse. This blog looks at these factors with an emphasis on the ones you have control over and offers suggestions to lessen some sticking points in the divorce process. 

Before we get into the main factors, first to remember is that in Colorado there is a 91-day ‘cooling off’ period. So, that is the minimum a divorce can take.

If you are seeking divorce as a result of cheating or abuse (emotional, physical or both) this pre-existing conflict will most certainly slow the process down. This is because the wronged party(ies) are in no position to want to make the process easier for the other party. It sounds overly simplistic but, “hurt people hurt people” and when you’ve been wronged, you often want to exact payback any way you can and this rears its head when it comes to communicating with the person who hurt you. A high level of conflict is not an insurmountable obstacle in the divorce journey,  but it may prevent you from engaging in a successful divorce mediation. An attorney -led divorce will take longer on average, but it may be necessary if communication is impossible and conflict is overwhelming. 

The state of Colorado requires a parenting plan but even if it didn’t you would need one to resolve the following issues: 

 

Additionally, the following information is often included:

While it will take time to flesh out as many details as possible, a vague parenting plan will take more time (and cost more money) in the long run due a return visit or phone call to your attorney or mediator to resolve an issue. 

If you have multiple properties and investment accounts, there is simply more to split up. A reminder that Colorado is an ‘equitable distribution’   state and assets and debts acquired during marriage (i.e. the marital estate) should be divided equitably between the spouses. Every asset, cars, jewelry, and even furniture is subject to division so if you’ve acquired more, it may take longer to come to an agreement around who will end up with the asset (or debt) 

If you own a business together, you will need to bring in a business evaluation expert to provide a fair market value. We have a trusted advisor who helps our clients do just this. 

You have four ways to proceed with divorce. DIY or do it yourself, attorney led divorce, divorce mediation and collaborative divorce. These methods are discussed in great detail here. The method you choose will depend on the amount of assets you have, the presence or absence of conflict, the length of the marriage and whether children are involved. Generally, the more complicated, conflict-heavy situations where children are present warrant an attorney-led divorce. The simpler, conflict free, minimal asset divorces may be accomplished by the parties themselves. 

For everything in between, mediation and collaborative divorce are most useful. 

A DIY divorce could take less than 4 months while an attorney led divorce could take 6-12 months, or more. Factors that are out of your attorney’s control include how packed the judge’s docket is, how long it takes your ex-spouse's attorney to provide the necessary documents for financial disclosure, and how long it takes a judge to rule on a motion made by either party. 

Divorce mediation can be much quicker since those factors are not present and instead of two attorneys, you only have one mediator who is working with both parties to reach a consensus. Also, keep in mind that a mediator is usually not paid by the hour but charges a flat fee so each phone call, motion made, email sent is not calculated in 15 minute increments. Divorce cost is discussed in greater detail here.

Collaborative divorce involves two attorneys and a mediator and for that reason will likely take longer since there are two more parties in the mix. 

Three Ways to Keep the Divorce Process on Track

1. As soon as you and your spouse begin talking about divorce, resolve to sit down and hash out your priorities. If it is maintaining privacy and keeping conflict to a minimum, divorce mediation is the most applicable choice. 

2. Have he information needed to split up your assets and debts ready as soon as possible. This means you need to request, collect and share all the necessary statements, passwords, etc, with each other and the divorce professional you hire. 

3. Consider how therapy could address the emotional fallout from divorce so it doesn’t negatively affect the length of time a divorce will take. If feelings of hurt are not processed and dealt with, they will inevitably slow down your divorce so leave that kind of emotional work to a professional. We are happy to refer you to therapists and divorce coaches who we trust to help our clients. 

 

Schedule your 20 minute consultation today so we can help you plan for your post divorce future today!

When you’re facing divorce, you have your hands full. The last thing you should have to worry about is an incompetent attorney or mediator who was supposed to guide you through the process. Make sure you can recognize what behaviors are unacceptable so you know what your options are. Below we cover five ways attorneys and mediators may fall short and what a good relationship should look like. 

  1. Lack of Communication 

What it Looks Like:

This is when your attorney or mediator is not responding to you or not responding within a reasonable amount of time. To make sure all parties are in the same page, your mediator or attorney should set expectations about how often they will communicate and how long it will take them to respond. Clear and consistent client communication is key so even you, the client, are receiving responses, if they are jumbled or nonsensical, this is just as bad as no response at all. 

What it Should Look Like:

At the Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado we give our clients written instructions in our getting started package to make sure our clients know how to reach us and when and for what. 

Generally in business, It’s reasonable to expect a call back within x24 to 48 hours amount of time. To account for the variabilities of life, both you and the attorney or mediator should set up autoresponders for any time where you or they will be unable to respond within a normal timeline. It is unreasonable to expect a response from your attorney or mediator outside of business hours unless they've behaved in a manner that would lead you to believe that calls or texts happen outside of those hours. If you want to ensure you know that your emails have been read, look for a email tracking solution

Can It Be Fixed? If you’re in the consultation phase, make sure to tell your attorney or mediator what you expect communication wise. Make sure your expectations line up.

The professional/firm you hire to guide you through your divorce should provide clear instructions up front as to how they manage communication timelines, and they should be held to their standards.  Remember, this is your divorce, your future and you are the boss….you hire your divorce professional and you have the right to fire your divorce professional. 

 

  1. Missing Deadlines

What it Looks Like:

If you have had to inform or remind your attorney or mediator about a deadline and missing that deadline ends up costing you money, that is a huge red flag and in most cases, warrants firing them.  

Look out for:

An example of a deadloine that was missed by one of our client's previous attorneys was not turning the discovery in time so the home appraisal was inadmissible, leading the client to be awarded a substantially lower amount. Another example: witness disclosures were not made timely resulting in rescheduling your court date.

What Should it Look Like: Dates and deadlines are clearly communicated via email and with enough notice if the client needs to provide information.

Can it be fixed? It depends. If the missed deadline doesn't affect you in a material way, i.e. money or lost time, it is not worth breaking up with your mediator or attorney. If they're missing deadlines, they're also likely not communicating well, so it's not uncommon for #1 and #2 on this list to operate in tandem. 

  1. Not Understanding Colorado divorce law 

What it Looks Like: 

The legal and mediation worlds depend heavily on details and facts which vary with the circumstances. Make sure that your attorney or mediator is asking relevant questions and fleshing out the details, especially related to finances and child support and parenting plans (if applicable) A failure to understand Colorado divorce law may arise if they are new practioners or if they not keeping up with changes to the law. The legal and mediation process depends heavily on the small facts which vary with the circumstances.

A competent attorney or mediator is required to have a solid understanding of the state divorce laws.  You may want to exercise caution in hiring an attorney who practices different types of law with family law being one of them.  Family law is very complex and case law is deep.  In addition to feeling a connection with the person you hire, it is important you're comfortable with their knowledge.  This means you may need to seek a second opinion. 

What it should look like: When they are as open and transparent with you about what their reasoning is. They put their logic into plain English without a bunch of convoluted phrases. 

Can it be fixed? This is especially tricky. You either know your stuff as they say, or you don't. There's not a speedy way to become more knowledgeable. Proceed with caution. 

 

  1. Not Doing Their Research 

What it Looks Like: 

Your research uncovers something they missed, etc. If you find that your lawyer or mediator has demonstrated clear ignorance or mistaken understanding of an issue of law, or has failed to understand the specific facts of your case; then maybe you aren’t getting the legal service that you paid for.

What It Should Look Like: Usually you won't know what they should have known, until its too late. However, here are clues that your attorney or mediator is the kind of divorce professional who crosses their t's and dots their i's. 

An example: Mixing up your case up with another client’s case and sending you their documents. 

Can it be fixed? Depends. If you suspect an error or oversight on the part of the professional, address it with them right away.

However, if you find that your lawyer has demonstrated clear ignorance or mistaken understanding of an issue of law, or has failed to understand the specific facts of your case; then maybe you aren’t getting the legal service that you paid for and you should seek another opinion.

Remember, the documents you produced as well as the reports/documents produced by the divorce professional belong to you.  You may request them to seek another professional to look at them and offer a second opinion.

 

  1. Telling You Only What You Want to Hear

Too many Yes’s are also a red flag.

What it Looks Like: Some lawyers and mediators are going to tell you what you want to hear. They need to be realists and not people pleasers. It may be that you have a very strong case, but there are no guarantees. Court is really a ‘crap shoot’ and to hear promises about your outcome would not be acceptable.You need a divorce professional who will give it to you straight so that there are no terrible surprises down the road. 

What it should look like: A no nonsense attorney or mediator who has been there and seen a lot. This is not about making you feel good, they're also there to manage client expectations.

Can it be fixed? 

Yes, if you are in the consulting phase you can spot this kind of behavior and seek another divorce professional. If you have already hired them, and that behavior was what reeled you in, you may need to adjust your expectations to be in line with the reality of divorce where the reality is unpredictability. 

If you are contemplating divorce, the professionals at the Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado can help. Give us a call at 303 468-5626.

A common, but less discussed divorce question is how a new relationship may change your parenting plan that you and your ex set up. In this month’s blog we look at legitimate reasons to be concerned about your ex’s new significant other. We’ll also talk about issues you may want to address when developing your parenting plan to head off potential problems later. Finally, we offer advice on when it’s time to talk with a divorce mediator to amend your parenting plan. 

First, what are NOT legitimate reasons to be concerned about your ex’s new love interest? 

Not liking the ex’s new partner isn’t a valid reason to disagree on child custody. There must be a significant reason to believe it would be detrimental to the children to be around to this new boyfriend/girlfriend.

Other reasons that are not valid when looking at changing a parenting plan include your concern that your child(ren) are becoming too close to him or her. Or maybe you don’t appreciate being kept in the dark. Maybe you found out about this person from your kids and not your ex. Unfortunate, yes, but not enough reason to involve outside parties. 

What are legitimate reasons to be concerned about your ex’s new relationship? 

Obviously, some causes for concern that may warrant amending the parenting plan include things like: the significant other has a criminal record, abuses drugs and or alcohol, or displays anger/violence around the children.

If the new partner is preventing you from being able to parent your children by not allowing you to speak with them or pick them up when it’s been agreed upon, that is also an issue. If your child’s physical or mental health is threatened by this person, that also rises to the level of getting a third party involved. 

Q: What if your child(ren) are being watched by this new partner when your ex is not present? 

A: Unless you included language to prevent this in your parenting plan, this is completely within your ex’s parental rights. Each of you has the  right to select a babysitter of his/her choosing for the child during your parenting time.

Issues you may want to address in your parenting plan to head off problems with new partners

Begin with the broad question, What happens when either of us enters a new relationship? 

As part of the development of your parenting plan, it is prudent to discuss issues that could negatively impact your co-parenting relationship with your ex. Issues such as:

A clearly written parenting plan provides parents and children with predictability and consistency; it also can prevent future conflict.  If you have a good relationship with the other parent, you may feel that you do not need a detailed plan. Even so, a parenting plan will be your guide if your relationship becomes less cooperative in the future. 

Advice when conflict arises with your ex's new partner

When to talk to a divorce mediator about your ex's new partner

Obviously, if the child(ren) are in any type of danger, it would be important to involve a lawyer or the authorities, depending on the nature of the issue.  

If you are noticing a deterioration in your co-parenting and/or communication with your ex, or if the children are expressing concerns that you determine may be valid, that is when it would be important to reach out to a mediator to discuss the issues before conflict escalates. You may not necessarily even have to amend the parenting plan. Just having a meeting with your mediator could reveal solutions you may have not thought of yet. 

If you are noticing any of these red flags related to your partner’s new love interest, give us a call to look over your parenting plan. While we can’t foresee every possible scenario, we can ensure that your child’s best interests are front and center and not being pushed on the back burner by your ex’s new partner. Give us a call at 303 468-5626 to discuss your individual situation. 

Social Security is one of the three major sources of retirement income alongside retirement and savings accounts. While retirement and savings accounts are subject to stops and starts and market volatility, social security benefits are steady and reliable. Thus, it’s no surprise many older Americans are especially dependent on their Social Security benefits. 

According to a 2015 survey by the Social Security Administration, about half of the population aged 65 or older live in households that receive at least 50 percent of their income from Social Security and roughly 25 percent of those eligible for Social Security rely on it for at least 90 percent of their income.

How does divorce affect your social security payments?

How does the death of an ex-spouse change the amount you receive?

How does remarriage adjust the amount of your social security check?

Knowledge is power and understanding each scenario helps you plan your post-divorce future. 

The following information is based on a presumption of one party in the marriage having earned less income throughout their working life than their spouse. If this is not the case and both spouses earned a roughly equal amount throughout their working lives, the following information is inapplicable. Remember, regardless of what you are entitled to based on the amount your ex-spouse earned, you still have your own social security benefit to draw from. 

How Does Divorce Affect Your Social Security Payments? 

If a couple was married for 10 years or longer and they divorce, the spouse who earned less is entitled to the greater of half of the amount of the higher earning spouse's Social Security benefit or 100% of their own benefit provided certain provisions are met:  

  1. the higher earning spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits (Note: eligibility and not application for Social Security benefits is the important distinction)
  1. The couple was married for 10 years before the divorce became final,
  2. the lower earning spouse is not re-married,
  3. the lower earning spouse is age 62 or older and,
  4. the lower earning spouse is not entitled to a social security benefit that equals or exceeds one-half the higher earning spouse’s benefit.

So, if the higher earning spouse is set to receive $2,500 a month in social security upon retirement, the lower earning spouse will receive a payment of half that amount and the higher earning spouse’s amount is not affected. 

Higher earning spouse $2,500/month

Lower earning ex spouse $1,250/month

If My Ex-Spouse or I Remarry, What Happens to Social Security Payments? 

Q: What if the higher earning spouse remarries?

A: If they are married to their second spouse for 10 years and they end up getting divorced, their second ex also receives a monthly benefit equal to half.  

The second marriage will have no effect on what the first ex spouse receives.The only time this will not be the case is if the higher earning spouse was to divorce a fifth spouse as the benefit stops with ex-spouse #4. 

Considering the 10 year marriage requirement for each marriage, it would be very unusual to ever have this scenario take place.

Higher earning spouse $2,500

Lower earning ex spouse #1 $1,250

Lower earning ex spouse #2 $1,250

Q: What if the lower earning spouse remarries? 

A: If the lower earning spouse is married and retires, they would look to their current spouse’s amount to calculate theirs. But if they have been married to spouse #2 for 10 years and they divorce,they are entitled an amount calculated as either: half of the first ex spouse’s benefit OR half of ex spouse #2’s benefits or their own, whichever is higher.  

Assume the lower earning spouse, who has not yet retired, starts to earn more money. In doing so, at retirement, they will be entitled to receive $1,350 a month from their own Social Security account.  When they retire, they choose between taking $1,350 from her own account, an amount based on half of spouse number #1’s account,  or half of spouse #2’s account. They may only choose one and will of course choose the highest amount. 

If My Ex-Spouse Dies, How Does This Change the Amount I Receive? 

What happens after the higher earning ex-spouse dies?

The lower earning ex spouse is entitled to widow/widower benefits if:

  1. the deceased was entitled to Social Security benefits,
  2. they were married for 10 years before the divorce became final,
  3. the surviving ex spouse is age 60 or over, or is between ages 50 and  60 and disabled,
  4. the surviving spouse is not married, and
  5. The surviving spouse is not entitled to a retirement benefit equal to or greater than the deceased’s benefit.

If a higher earning spouse leaves behind a second spouse, this survivor also gets the same if they meet the above five requirements.

A widow/widower’s remarriage after age 60 will not prevent them from being entitled to payments based on the deceased’s higher earnings.  

A widow/widower’s remarriage before age 60 will prevent entitlement unless the subsequent marriage ends, whether by death, divorce, or annulment.  If the subsequent marriage ends, the widow/widower may become entitled or re-entitled to benefits on the prior deceased spouse’s earnings beginning with the month the subsequent marriage ends.

Example: Assume Kathy’s first husband died.  At age 58, she met a wonderful widower, James, and wanted to get remarried but she realized that she would lose her entitlement to all of the deceased spouse’s Social Security benefits when she turned age 60. This may explain why Kathy and James may decide to not get married. 

Now that we understand what happens to social security payments after divorce, remarriage and death, we’re better prepared for our post-divorce future. Having a full picture allows us to ease some of the anxiety brought on by divorce, especially in our more “experienced” years. 

If you have questions about social security, retirement and understanding your financial future post-divorce, give us a call at 303 468-5626. Understanding your circumstances is the best way for a divorce mediator to show you your options and work with you and your soon to be ex on resolutions you both can agree to. 

Recently, a very popular feature of the New York Times, Modern Love, featured an essay written by one half of a formerly married couple who share custody of their 8 year old and live under the same roof, albeit in different living quarters. There are various reasons why divorcing couples might consider co-habitation after divorce, but it does present some legal and emotional hurdles to clear. 

Consider the scenario if the couple has children requiring one spouse to pay child support to the other parent or if the court ordered that an ex-spouse pay alimony to the other ex-spouse. 

If theere's co-habitation after divorce, the support obligation may be altered to reflect the fact that the person paying the support or alimony is living with the recipient and reducing their expenses.

There are many pitfalls to consider when contemplating a post-divorce living arrangement involving sharing the family home once divorced.  That is why it is crucial to engage a CDFA-Certified Divorce Financial Analyst in your case. You will need someone who understands the potential tax and financial issues that can arise.

If you have children that you will be co-parenting, obviously it is not prudent to expose them to conflicts and fights that can occur over finances and/or the parenting plan.

Questions to Consider if You Plan to Live Together Post Divorce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So You Think Co-Habitation After Divorce Will Work For You and Your Ex

Perhaps you and your spouse feel this would be a workable living arrangement, and it may well be for your family--it just requires the proper planning involving the right expert up front.

We provide consultations to divorcing spouses about unique living situations like these. To flesh out your questions about cohabitation, schedule a 20 minute call with one of our experienced divorce professionals.

The decision to stay in the marital home during the divorce process is not one to make lightly. Before changes to the tax law in 1997, divorcees could face a hefty capital gains tax following the sale of family home. Thankfully, tax law has changed. 

However, the capital gains tax exemption of up to $250,000 for a single person and $500,000 for a couple, does come with some caveats. In this blog we discuss these conditions and what divorcing couples need to know about the sale of marital home. 

Although Colorado taxes capital gains at 4.63%, our smoking hot real estate market may still mean you’ll owe capital gains tax if you don’t qualify for the exemption. 

For instance, let’s say you bought a home in the Denver metro area in 2011. Back in June 2011, the median home value dropped as low as $232,000. In November 2021, the month for which the most recent info is available, this amount jumped to $538,000. So in this case, the sale generated a profit of $306,000. In order to be exempt from paying capital gains on anything over $250,000, three conditions must be met. 

  1. You owned the home for a total of at least two years in the five-year period before the sale.
  2. You used the home as your primary residence for a total of at least two years in that same five-year period.
  3. You haven't excluded the gain from another home sale in the two-year period before the sale.

Note: A primary or principal home is a home where you've lived for at least two of the five years prior to the sale.

The first condition for a spouse to meet concerns what the IRS refer to as the “ownership period”

If one spouse, pursuant to a divorce decree or separation agreement is required to grant the other spouse the right to temporary possession of the home, but retains title to the home, and the home is later sold, the spouse that left will be treated as having owned the home for the period of time that the occupying spouse owned the home as principal residence. The one who left gets to assume the ownership period of the spouse who remains. 

The second condition is the “use period”

To qualify for the home sale capital gains tax exemption, you need to show you “used” or lived in the home as their principal residence for two out of the past five years.  The IRS actually looks at the two out of the past five years as 24 months out of the past 60 months. And they don’t need to be 24 continuous months, just 24 cumulative months.

Keep in mind that both soon to be ex spouses must be owners during sale of marital home to take the $250,000 exclusion.

The third condition is the “two year rule”

This means that if you sell after owning for less than two years, you’ll need to pay capital gains tax on any profit. The exemption only can apply after you’ve reached two years of ownership.

Our recommendation when one spouse moves out of the home is to get it in writing that you have an agreement for one spouse to remain in the home but that the spouse who left remains a co-owner. Make sure to include that this is pursuant to a divorce mediation or court order. 

Another important thing to note is to spell out how proceeds of the sale of marital home will be split. The tax liability does not necessarily go hand in hand with the way that the proceeds are split pursuant to the divorce decree.  So, for example, if John owns half the house and Mary owns half the house then each of them are responsible to pay taxes on their half of the house and if, under the property settlement, Mary was entitled to get all of the proceeds, or perhaps 75% of the proceeds, those are two separate things.

If one or both of you lived in a nursing home, the use requirement may be lessened to one year and if you claimed a home office exemption, this amount must be deducted from the $250,000 exemption. To fully understand all the conditions, exceptions and what you need to memorialize in writing, we suggest working with a financial professional. Each of our mediators at the Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. We welcome your questions about the sale of the marital home in a complimentary 20 minute call with one of our experienced staff. 

If you are recently divorced and have worked out your post divorce holiday schedule with your ex, can you sit back and relax and enjoy the mashed potatoes? Maybe. This post divorce holiday season, consider a few key areas to make sure the holidays are as stress free as they can be for your children. Mainly, these areas of concern involve grandparents, holiday traditions and suggestions for how to divide holiday celebrations. 

In this blog post, we discuss post divorce holiday concerns with suggestions and input from our clients. So whether you say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa or Yuletide Greetings, know that you’ve done your best to make the holidays happy and bright for your children. After all, research shows positive childhood memories serve as “anchors” and provide comfort when life takes an unexpected turn. Another bonus? Happy childhood memories help children regulate stress, build concentration, and increase their attention span.

Holiday Consideration #1 - The Grandparents

You may be keenly aware of how you and your ex spouse are navigating the post divorce holiday season, but what about your in-laws and your parents are dealing? Flexibility is a really important skill for children to master but acknowledge when their grandparents might not be as amenable to a change of plans. These adaptations are only something to be upset about if we can’t see the value in what is truly important and that is whatever time spent together should be quality time. Does spending less time at your in-laws or your parents home make it any less special? Of course not. Also, being beholden to Christmas eve or Christmas Day can spell disappointment if you’re trying to juggle multiple home visits. Where is the harm in planning a “Christmas visit” on December 27th if it works for everyone’s schedule? 

If grandparents are able and willing to travel, offer to host them at your home to minimize the drive time and lessen the need for everyone to prepare a meal and clean and prepare their home. On the other end of the spectrum, if grandparents are loathe to change their holiday plans and insist on having things their way regardless of how it affects the children, it’s time to employ the “We’re sticking with (insert the blank) arrangement this holiday season. If you’d like to see the kids in January, we’d be happy to set up a time then. (See consideration #3) Remember, as a wise and funny person once said, You are not pizza, you can’t please everyone. We add, “Nor should you, especially at the expense of you or your family’s happiness or stress level.”

Consideration #2 - Doing the same activities you did as a family but without the other parent is a bad idea

Keep in mind that a different life warrants different celebrations. Consider that the activities you enjoyed as a family don’t transfer when one party is no longer there. Especially if the reason you began going out and chopping down a tree was because your ex husband always did with his family. Why would you want to keep up a tradition that didn’t even originate with your marriage? What is something you can create with your children to create a new tradition? It doesn’t have to be earth shaking. Ideas include holiday movies and tree decorating. Caroling in your neighborhood or having a white elephant exchange, the possibilities are endless. Even if you decide not to celebrate in a particular way or with a festive dish - it doesn’t mean your children won’t get a dose of nostalgia elsewhere (See grandparents or other spouse) 

 

Consideration #3 - Creative Ways to Split up the Holidays

Alternate Holidays

One popular way is to alternate holidays with your ex spouse so for instance, Christmas Eve is spent with one parent one year and with the other parent the following year. When this has been agreed to, it allows each parent to make plans a year in advance based on this schedule. Alternating holidays means more uninterrupted time and not having to rush from one location to another. The obvious downside to alternating may be most acutely felt by the parent who doesn’t make plans or stay busy when they are without their children. 

Splitting Holidays

Another holiday arrangement is splitting holidays. When you split holidays, the child’s holiday time is split between both parents. This way, each parent has the child for a specific number of hours or until a set time. In most cases, one parent takes the child for the first half of the day while the other parent gets the second half. This will work best if you ive relatively close to your ex-spouse and when you have a pretty amicable relationship as there will be more regular exchanges between you two. The downside occurs if you feel rushed as you only have half day to spend with your children but you try to squeeze an entire days activity in half the time. 

Fixed Holidays

A third arrangement is fixed holidays. This might happen when spouses practice different religions and their respective religious or cultural celebrations fall on non overlapping days. When these fixed holidays control the schedule, it removes  contention and allows for time for each parent to celebrate in a way that doesn’t take away time from their ex spouse. 

Double Holidays

A fourth arrangement is to double up on the post divorce holiday with two or even four potential Christmases, New Years’s etc. if the children have both grandparents and there’s no way to combine visits. The upside is that the children get to celebrate all the holidays with all the possible family members so long as distance is not an issue. However, perhaps instead of four gifts, it may be less contentious to buy joint gifts so it doesn’t turn into a gifting competition and too many toys taking over each spouse’s home. 

Keep Post Dirvorce Holiday The Same as Pre-Divorce

A fifth way to divvy up holidays is to celebrate the holidays together as you did pre-divorce. Obviously you’ll want to discuss if significant others will also be included prior to remarriage but this arrangement is the closest reincarnation of pre-divorce life. 

Let Parenting Plan Dictate Post Divorce Holiday

The final way to deal with holidays is to allow the parenting plan to dictate holidays. This can be easier to plan around since you know in advance if your ex spouse has Thursdays through Sundays and if Christmas eve and Christmas Day fall in that window, then you can keep to the parenting plan without any extra discussion. 

Selecting any of these arrangements is preferable to turning to your ex spouse each year and saying, “So what should we do about the holidays?” There’s no rule that you have to pick one way and stick with it for eternity either. Flexibility helps them navigate social challenges in their own lives. We’ve all seen adults who are severely deficient in flexible thinking and since this executive function is set by the age of 20, making their behavior nearly impossible to change, our children still have time to learn this important life skill. 

The holiday season is full of memories, nostalgia, traditions and this doesn’t change with a divorce decree. Get creative, stay flexible and keep the lines of communication open with all family members who appreciate the magic of the holidays. Consider this blog post as just another piece of advice from a divorce professional reminding you to keep your expectations hopeful, celebrate your own way and remain cordial. Each month, check out our blog for more friendly tips and advice.

What will your post divorce life look like? 

When you’ve made a lifetime commitment of marriage, facing a divorce brings up all kinds of uncertainties and accompanying questions.

Questions like: 

At the Divorce Resource Centre we take a process oriented approach to these questions DURING the divorce mediation process. Whether you come to us first, or after you’ve worked with an attorney, we take you through our process so you have a system you can rely on. Goals get all the attention when developing a process and creating a system are much more important. 

This is true especially when you’re planning what the rest of your life will look like. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits said it best, “The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. Systems are the processes that lead to those results.”  

Divorce mediation is not about winning the game, it’s about finding a long term peaceful resolution. So do you have a system and a process to get there? The Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado has a six part process to arrive at a peaceful resolution. Below we discuss each step in our unique process in more detail.  

#1 Understand Your Finances to Deal with Divorce

The first step is gaining clarity about your financial situation. We focus on your current and future financial situation, your goals and guiding principles. The financial needs of the children are also part of this process. In this step, we offer initial observations and possibilities for the outcome of your case, all while taking the time to ensure that you understand each part of the mediation roadmap. 

#2 Get Your Soon to be Ex-Spouse on the Same Page

DRCC’s next step is working to make sure you and your soon to be ex spouse are on the same page. We ask the right questions to uncover your thoughts about dividing one household into two, financially and where both parents stand on various parenting issues. You’ll gather your thoughts using straightforward worksheets and have a chance to express your point of view on any issues of concern so that we can properly facilitate your discussions and agreement.

#3 Create a Budget and Cash Flow Analysis to Deal with Divorce

The third step in our divorce mediation process is creating forward focused budgets and a cash flow analysis. With our guidance, you’ll create a realistic, forward-looking spending plan to implement and rely on as you rebuild financially post-divorce. 

Each member of our team is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst so we go over: 

#4 Got Kids? Figure out their Post Divorce Reality

The fourth step in our divorce mediation process is for parents. We believe that while your marriage ends, your family continues and care should be taken to ensure you enjoy healthy lives and relationships post-divorce. We’ll help you create a parenting plan (not an order) to meet your children’s needs and family’s best interest. 

#5 Negotiate and Agree with your Soon to Be Ex Spouse 

The fifth part of our process is negotiation and agreement. With all the details about your income, property, budgets, and parenting factors in mind, we’ll make sure you have what you need to have effective conversations with your counsel and other advisors and successfully finalize your divorce. 

Relevant documents we’ll complete include: 

# 6 Come to a Conclusion by Finalizing with Documents/Checklists

The final step in DRCC’s process is the mediation conclusion.  We empower both of you with a plan for successful implementation of a post-divorce life—one that meets the unique needs of your family. This includes a thorough post-divorce checklist review. 

With so many what ifs and contingencies, even type B personalities are not immune to the stress of divorce. Did you know divorce is ranked #2 on the The Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale, right behind the death of a spouse? For an overview of our process, check out our divorce mediation roadmap. Better yet, when you’re ready to move closer to a better post divorce future, take the next step with a 20 minute complimentary phone consultation with a member of our team. We’ll both ask clarifying questions to better understand what is happening with you and your partner. 

Copyright 2022 © Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado
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