Maintaining Extended Family Ties After a Divorce

Continuing Your Relationship After a Divorce

Divorce rates have gone down over the years, but about one in three marriages still end in one. With statistics like these, navigating post-divorce relationships with in-laws can be delicate, particularly when you want to maintain your and your children’s relationship with the extended families after the split.

Why Extended Family Ties Break Down After Divorce

During a marriage, you forge a relationship not only with your spouse but often also with their family members. These ties can be strong, and this extended family can become an important part of your life. However, when the marriage struggles and eventually ends, your ties to your spouse’s family might also be affected. There are many reasons why your relationships with your ex-spouse’s family or theirs with yours might end after your divorce is finalized. Some of these include:

  • The desire for a clean break after the divorce
  • Anger and resentment against your former spouse or their family members
  • Miscommunication among the parties, including misconceptions that you might want them out of your life
  • Lack of effort on either side to maintain the relationship

Benefits of Continuing Extended Family Ties After Divorce

While the relationship with your ex-spouse’s family might take work to maintain after the divorce, there are many benefits to continuing those ties. If you were close during the marriage, you might have already enjoyed the emotional support and companionship that an extended family can provide, which could continue even after the end of the marriage. If you are a parent, ties with your former in-laws and other family members might be important to both you and your children. Maintaining a close relationship with them can help provide your children with additional comfort during the difficult time of their parents’ split.

Extended Family and Your Children

Children often develop strong relationships with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. After a marriage comes to an end, these ties and bonds could be at risk if the adults do not commit to maintaining them. This can result in distance and estrangement between the children and their extended family, an additional hardship for the children to endure even as their world might be turned upside down. At first, it might be difficult to work on sustaining these relationships. You might feel awkward about it or dealing with an ex-spouse who is not on board with the continuation of these ties. However, attempting to ensure the continuity of these bonds for the sake of your children’s well-being is important. Grandparents can offer children solace, warmth and support. Their home can feel like a safe space for the children in a way that their own parents’ homes might not, temporarily, as they deal with the divorce. Grandparents can also offer other types of support, such as by helping with child care, even when it is your time with the children.

Dealing With an Uncooperative Ex-Spouse

Maintaining your relationship with your ex’s extended family can be difficult if your former spouse is uncooperative. As challenging as this can be, however, it often changes over time, with the chance that the other parent will come around and understand the importance of these relationships. You should speak with your divorce lawyer about your options to include your former in-laws in your child’s life, but it might take time for your former spouse to come around and accept this. In the meantime, you will want to minimize the conflict between the two of you. There are things you can do when dealing with an uncooperative parent, such as:

  • Respecting your ex’s wishes when it comes to the relationship between you and their family
  • Keeping communication between both of you civil and amicable
  • Avoiding saying negative things about your former spouse or their family members to your children
  • Prioritizing your children’s best interests and needs
  • Taking responsibility for your actions and role that contributed to the end of your marriage

What You Can Do

If you want to sustain your relationship with your former spouse’s family after your divorce becomes final, you will need to prepare yourself for the journey. You can speak to your divorce lawyer about incorporating time with them as part of your co-parenting agreement. Other things you can do include:

  • Encouraging and making an effort to give your children time with their grandparents and other extended family members
  • Being flexible with your time and plans to allow the children to attend events that are important to their extended family
  • Providing information to extended family about your children’s events, such as sports competitions and other hobbies
  • Inviting your in-laws to remain in your and your children’s lives even after the end of the marriage

What You Must Accept

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, your former spouse might not want you to continue pursuing the relationship with their family. They might not be ready to have you so presently in their life as they work through the emotions of the breakup, or they might struggle to accept that you can have a relationship with their family members. In that case, you must accept and adhere to their choice respectfully. However, you might continue to encourage the possibility of the development of that relationship by speaking to your ex about the importance of it in both of your lives. With time, your former spouse might come around and agree that you can continue this relationship.

Sometimes, Time Heals the Wounds

In some cases, your patience might be your most important ally. The dissolution of a marriage takes time to process for all parties involved, and the interactions among some or all of the parties might change over time. There might be tension between you and your ex or between you and your in-laws when the breakup is fresh, but this too might ease, allowing the ties with your extended family to eventually continue. If your family was close during the marriage, you might miss the companionship and support they offered. One way to deal with this is to be kind to yourself during this time. You can seek out a support group for people who have recently undergone a divorce. You can also develop new hobbies and interests, seeking new opportunities in your life. In time, the ties you had with your ex’s family might be recovered.

Your divorce can have a significant and lasting impact on your life, and the decisions you make during the process can affect many aspects of your life once it is completed, including the role your former spouse’s extended family will play. A divorce lawyer who understands this lasting impact can help you prepare for this new stage in your life. At the Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco, we can help you prepare for what comes next. Call us at 201-343-0078 to schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys at our Hackensack, New Jersey office.

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