How do I handle Thanksgiving when separated or divorced?

Thanksgiving when separated or divorced

Thanksgiving is an important family holiday. It represents a day for relatives to gather, give thanks, and have an excuse to 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 separated or former spouse. For many, this is not a pretty picture.

When parents physically separate and ultimately divorce, courts do not expect those parents will spend the holidays together just because they share custody of their children. But some families do give this a try, and for parents who had an amicable divorce and still get along with former 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 as former spouses will have a new significant other, families will expand, and 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 the parent who is left out and the children caught in the middle. Typically, Thanksgiving break runs from Wednesday before Thanksgiving through Monday after Thanksgiving when the children return to school. Given that wide stretch of time, parents 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 parents who live near each other and with families who live in the area. For parents 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.

Should you need the advice of a divorce and family law attorney or have questions or concerns about your situation, know that we are here to help and discuss those issues with you.