The subject of whether to stay married frequently arises for our clients on the cusp of the winter holiday season. Measuring the benefits of waiting until after the holidays against any urgent need to file for divorce to protect an asset or obtain court orders concerning parenting time and temporary support is common. If you find yourself struggling with whether to file for divorce now or wait until the beginning of 2016, here are some practical considerations:
1. Can you really fake a happy, civil marriage during holiday gatherings with friends, family and colleagues? It often seems the holidays bring an endless parade of parties, work gatherings and trips to see family. If your spouse’s worst traits come out during this time of stress (uncontrolled drinking, depression, physical or verbal abuse), or you know it will be impossible to remain civil to one another at holiday events it may be better to file before the season begins.
2. Do you need to consider time limits and statutory filing requirements in Tennessee or Mississippi? Each state has different deadlines and filing requirements concerning the length of time a complaint for divorce must be pending before a court can grant that divorce. Another consideration may be the need to have temporary parenting time, alimony and child support issues heard by a court so that orders dictating visitation and support can be entered before the holidays begin. Scheduling hearings can be challenging during the holiday season due to court and attorney availability. These orders can be vital to ensuring a normal parenting schedule during the holidays, or providing support to a disadvantaged spouse if the parties cannot agree without court intervention.
3. What is best for your children? The most prevalent reason for staying together during the holiday season is to ensure that normal holiday traditions remain undisturbed so children can enjoy the holidays with their parents together in the same household. If you decide to stay together until after the holiday season, make sure that you and your spouse are truly able to remain civil to one another. Talk with your spouse and have an agreement about the way you will interact with one another to ensure that remaining together during the holidays is stress-free for the children.
4. Do you have adequate financial records concerning your marital assets, each spouse’s income and debts, or documentation concerning a closely held business? During the course of your divorce, you will need to value each marital asset and divide those assets between you and your spouse either by agreement, or by requesting such a division from a court. You will need to determine your income and your spouse’s income, as well as expenses, for purposes of calculating child support and alimony. Whether you will be paying alimony and child support or receiving it, these records will be necessary for settlement negotiation, or to prepare for any hearing before a court. The more information you have prior to filing a complaint for divorce, the less time and expense you will incur collecting these records through the discovery process. Many of the records you need will be generated at the end of the year, in the form of end-of-year financial statements, pay stubs, and forms prepared for filing with the Internal Revenue Service. It may be best to wait until you have all of these documents collected before you initiate litigation.
5. How stressed will you be about filing for divorce? Although there are ways to divorce amicably and reduce the anxiety that divorce can cause, filing for divorce will be one of the most stressful life events that most people will ever experience. When you consider that the holiday season is already a time of stress, it may be better for you and your health if you choose to limit your stress during the holidays and wait until the new year to pursue a divorce.