Handling Thanksgiving After Divorce

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Thanksgiving may be the ultimate family holiday—a time for relatives to gather together, give thanks, and overeat. But any family gathering always has its moments, those certain relatives that do not get along, often with in-laws. Now try and imagine that same holiday experience with a former spouse and former in-laws. For many, this is not a pretty picture.

When people divorce, courts do not expect that they will spend the holidays together just because they share custody of children. But some families do give this a try, and for people who had an amicable divorce and still get along with the extended families, this might seem a short-term workable solution so that everyone still spends a holiday together. But in the long run, this seems a questionable approach – former spouses will have new partners, families change or patience wears thin with time. These changes will make it harder to celebrate together and makes it more likely the children will see their parents fight.

But the default position of alternating Thanksgiving every year means that one parent will not get to enjoy Thanksgiving with the children, and for some families that can be very difficult on those left out and the children caught in the middle. Typically, Thanksgiving break runs from Wednesday before Thanksgiving through Sunday evening. Given that wide stretch of time, families do have options beyond every other year.

For example, one parent could have the day before Thanksgiving through the early afternoon, while the other parent takes the remainder of Thanksgiving and Friday after (for shopping). The weekend would remain the same as the regular schedule. Each year could alternate who has the first half or second half of Thanksgiving.

This option works well for people who live near each other and with families in town. For former spouses with distance issues that require travel, more flexibility might be required to make splitting Thanksgiving feasible. If the goal is to see family, sharing the five days in a way that allows each parent to have time with the children and their family would be ideal.

We realize that not all families can make these options work, but it is important to note that these options exist. The goal is to reduce tension and maximize each parent’s opportunity to spend some quality time with the children at Thanksgiving. With that as the goal, most families should be able to find a good compromise.

If you have questions about Thanksgiving and divorce, contact us – we can help.

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