divorce and family mediation in nyc

jennifer safian, divorce mediator

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are we forgetting about the in-laws? part 2

Part 2: Dealing with your former in-laws after your divorce:

Jennifer Safian of www.safian-mediation.com continues her discussion on how family members outside the immediate family of divorce are affected.In Part 1, we talked about how parents and in-laws may be affected by their children’s divorce and some things you can do to maintain a positive and open communication with them post-divorce. In part 2, we are going to look at how your divorce may affect your relationship with your in-laws.

During your marriage, you may have grown close to your in-laws and want to preserve that relationship for yourself as well as for your children. Your in-laws will be your children’s grandparents forever, as will their uncles, aunts or other relatives. Here are a few things that you may want to consider:

  • Talk to your ex-spouse: this is probably the first thing you need to do in order to clarify how to deal with the future. I actually work with many couples who discuss this in the course of the mediation while working out their parenting plans. You and your spouse may not feel the same way about how you should maintain these relationships. One of you may prefer that the other no longer talk to his or her parents, so a conversation may be necessary in order to explain your position and your feelings.
  • You may find out that your ex’s relatives are not interested in seeing you after the divorce. This could be very painful but you need to know where you stand.
  • You also need to be prepared for how you will deal with your in-laws spending time with your children. Ask your spouse if you can make the arrangements directly with them or if you need to make them through each other first.
  • Talk to your former in-laws: get approval from your ex-spouse first, then take the time to talk to them, whether grandparents, aunts, uncles or others. Hopefully your in-laws will be open to this conversation but keep in mind that they usually will feel a sense of loyalty to and support their own child first and foremost.
  • The ongoing relationship with your in-laws can also be a cause for concern: in cases where your in-laws are more than willing to stay connected to you, your ex may be left feeling rejected and frustrated, and that can cause problems for you.
  • Your former in-laws may feel uncomfortable around you when your ex-spouse starts to date. Or you may also find, that your relationship with them becomes tense as you begin dating again. Although your in-laws may have accepted that your relationship with their son or daughter is over, it can be hard for them to see you move on. Keeping a strong relationship with them, but also being honest about your needs is important.

In-laws sometimes become increasingly clingy throughout the divorce process because they worry about how their relationship with their grandchildren may suffer. Take every opportunity to reassure them that they will always be a welcome part of your child’s life. Let your children stay with them for a weekend or go out with them after school once a week. The grandparent/grandchild relationship is extremely important for all. Your children will have another set of people who love and care for them, and you will have someone to help you out when the need arises. This can also help your children deal with any insecurities they may feel throughout your divorce.

In-laws are a fact of life. Learning to deal with their personalities can be tricky, but the more accommodating you are, the easier the transition will be for you and your children. Don’t let your discomfort with your former in-laws deny your children a relationship with their grandparents.

The impact of divorce on parents and in-laws should not be forgotten. Addressing some of the problems early may help smooth the path for members of both families.

Do you know a friend or colleague whom you feel would find this article relevant? Please feel free to forward this article to them.

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Jennifer Safian

jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator
divorce and family mediation
upper east side of manhattan (nyc)
new york, ny
(212) 472-8626
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  1. Rosalind Sedacca February 2, 2013 at 9:04 am - Reply

    This is an important topic that often gets overlooked. Thanks for the great insights!

  2. Dale M Kleimola February 2, 2013 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Hi, Jennifer; thanks for a timely topic.

    I’m in a bit of a dilemma of my own choosing, I think. My ex-wife and her family do not want anything to do with me, however, she still wants to be connected to my siblings by attending family gatherings (i.e., Christmas, graduations, etc.) This makes me uncomfortable, largely because of emotional abuse I experienced through our marriage. I am quite anxious when she is present, which causes me to withdraw. I do not think it my place to ask my siblings to exclude her, yet I feel slighted when she is present.

    Any suggestions — from you, Jennifer, or others?


    • Jennifer Safian
      Jennifer Safian February 19, 2013 at 6:41 pm - Reply

      I hear what you are saying and it must be difficult.
      I do not give advice to one party as I am a mediator and do not take sides either.
      I can offer you to come in for a session with your ex wife to discuss this issue. It would give you both an opportunity to voice your needs and maybe find an acceptable solution.

  3. Gary Direnfeld February 19, 2013 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Brilliant and oft neglected part of the discussion for separating parents/partners – extended kin.
    Great article to bring this to the fore.

  4. Erin Farley February 19, 2013 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Yes! So true! The more people to love your children, the better!

  5. Mark B. Baer February 19, 2013 at 11:42 am - Reply

    Very good advice, Jennifer!

  6. JANN GLASSER February 19, 2013 at 11:43 am - Reply

    I agree with Mark – excellent advice! A divorce is like an earthquake, impacting not only those at the epicenter, but also the aftershocks are felt by those in the extended family who have no desire to become collateral damage of the divorce battlefield. To the extent that we can encourage families to keep children at the center of their interests, part of that stability for children is the maintenance of those relations with extended family members.

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