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Pursuing a Legal Separation During the Holidays

The holidays will be extra challenging for many couples this year because of the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdowns. Many couples who had to work from home together full time have decided that it is time for them to separate. In some cases, being together constantly has alerted them to the significant problems within their marriages. In other cases, they have experienced considerable disagreement when it comes to their strained finances. Whatever the reason, if you have decided to pursue a legal separation during the holidays, you are not alone.

The Benefits of Separating During the Holidays

Deciding when to legally separate is difficult, especially if you have young children. Many people assume that they cannot or should not legally separate during the holidays because they will ruin the “most wonderful time of the year.” However, for couples who know that they are going to pursue a divorce, some benefits come with separating during the holidays. 

In some cases, a spouse’s physical safety is at risk, along with her children’s safety. In that case, it is not worth trying to patch a relationship over so your children can enjoy the holidays. It is best that you file for legal separation. An experienced divorce lawyer can advise you as to whether you should pursue an order of protection. If you are unable to leave your home because you have small children, you can petition a judge to force your spouse or significant other to leave your shared home so you can enjoy the holiday safely.

Even if there is no physical or verbal abuse happening, you and your family may enjoy the holidays more if you and your spouse separate. For example, if you cannot communicate without spiraling into heated arguments, a legal separation could benefit you and your entire family. Separating can help you, and your spouse take a break from each other and spend some time alone. Without the constant reminder of your struggles in front of you, you may be able to come to a mutual agreement to try to act kindly to each other during the holidays. Doing so will allow your children to experience more positive holiday memories, as well.


Reasons to Wait to Legally Separate Until After the Holidays 

On the contrary, you may benefit from waiting until after the holidays to legally separate. If you and your spouse can agree to act civilly during the holidays, your children will benefit from you staying together. Having one parent move out of the shared home or moving out of the home with your child can be traumatic at any time, but it can be especially difficult during the holidays. 

Additionally, it may be difficult for you to think about your children experiencing the holidays without you if your spouse has custody of them. Waiting until after the holidays to separate and divorce can allow you to spend some more time thinking about what you like your post-divorce family to be. 

Will you and your spouse rotate holidays with your children? If so, what will you plan to do when your spouse has a turn with the children on Thanksgiving or Christmas? Adjusting to the holidays as a single person can be challenging whether you have children or not. If you are not ready to take ongoing through the holidays by yourself yet, it may be best to wait until January to pursue a legal separation.


Some Couples Wait Until January to Separate

January is the most popular month for legal separation and divorce. Many people across the country wait until after the holidays to file so the divorce process does not overshadow their Christmas and New Year celebrations. Many couples who are pursuing divorce cannot give their children and loved ones one last holiday together. When the relationship has already broken down, the holidays may still be spent arguing and bickering.

Some couples hope that the holidays’ joy and merriment will help them come together as a couple and save their marriage. However, this rarely happens, and some couples end up pretending to be a happy family during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years’ Day. In other cases, the spouses just want more time to decide whether they truly want to legally separate and pursue a divorce, and they would rather not make such a big decision during the holidays.


Consider the Tax Implications

In addition to the emotional and social implications of legal separation, it is important to consider the financial and tax consequences. When both spouses are high earners, it could benefit them to finalize their divorce decree before December 31st. Then each spouse can file as an unmarried person, which could lower their tax rate noticeably. Couples who legally separate can choose whether they would like to file taxes as married filing jointly or married couple filing separately. In some cases, one spouse may be able to file as the head of the household. 

Additionally, many people receive holiday or year-end bonuses in November of December. If you and your spouse are still living in the same home when you receive the bonus, the bonus will be considered community property. In a divorce, the court will split the community property equally between the spouses. There is a strong presumption that all assets and debts acquired during a couple’s marriage are considered community property in Washington. If you are legally separate, you can argue that your bonus is separate property and, as such, you are entitled to keep all of it post-divorce.


Speak to an Experienced Seattle Divorce Lawyer

If you are wondering whether you should legally separate during the holidays or wait till after the New Year, the best thing you can do is speak to an experienced divorce lawyer. At Akiona Law, PLLC, our experienced divorce lawyers provide honest and competent legal advice. We will answer all of your questions and shed light on the implications of legal separation. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.