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Making the Best of this Pre-Divorce Holiday Season

One of many reasons couples decide to soldier through the months of November and December is often an emotional one: they don't want to spoil the holiday season for their families.
11/22/2013 01:31pm ET | Updated January 25, 2014
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If you and your spouse are gearing up to file for divorce in January, you are not alone. The first month of the year is nicknamed "divorce month" because of the annual spike in divorce filings that typically take place in January. The most popular day of the year to file? It's typically Jan. 2 and Jan. 3, or the day that most schools go back into session after the December vacation.

Why January? One of many reasons couples decide to soldier through the months of November and December is often an emotional one: they don't want to spoil the holiday season for their families. Whether this means not wanting to make a sudden change that will affect their children's holiday traditions, or a desire to "keep up appearances" through one more holiday meal with extended family, it's common for couples to stay together for at least these next few weeks, even when their decision to divorce is firm.

If you and your spouse are one of these couples, your intentions may be noble. Still, are you not quite sure exactly how you will make it through until January with your soon-to-be former spouse -- and not go crazy? Here are some tips for making the best of this pre-divorce holiday season:

Make a Pact: If you are your spouse have already discussed delaying divorce until January, have a follow up discussion to lay some ground rules for the holidays. No fighting in front of the kids, no verbal digs, no dropping hints about the divorce, and no skipping out on the very traditions that you are both trying to protect, including religious observances, putting up holiday decorations, and being together to open gifts.

On the other hand, your holiday game plan should also include enough space and time for each of you to be alone. One parent can take the children to the mall to shop this year, instead of both you going, for example. Many people take "mental health" days from work during the month of December just to lay low and take time away from holiday hustle and bustle. For you this year, taking some time off for yourself may be a way to reduce holiday stress -- and the stress of divorce.

Insert a New Tradition: Over the next few weeks, do something new with your kids alone. Go see the Polar Express at an I-MAX theater, or head to your local community center to try something special like ice skating, swimming or ping pong. Try to start a new tradition with your kids this year, so that next year, you have a fun solo parent memory and tradition ready to go.

Enjoy Yourself: If you've both come to the conclusion that getting a divorce is the best decision possible for your relationship, then why not simply kick back and enjoy yourself during the holidays? Being positive around your soon-to-be-ex spouse can serve as a great model as your co-parenting relationship begins. Not spending your final days under one roof in tense silence may also help your divorce move forward in a faster and friendlier way.

Don't Put Your Divorce on Hold: Just because you are waiting until January to officially file for divorce, it doesn't mean that you can't be working behind the scenes right now to prepare. Go ahead and start interviewing divorce attorneys, begin gathering financial records, make out a list of your family's living expenses, write down your wish list when it comes to matters such as child custody and asset division, and look for an apartment or house to rent, if necessary. Think of these steps as a holiday gift to yourself; the gift of greater peace of mind that when the New Year arrives, it will be a time of renewal and strength.