Divorce is naturally hard on those immediately involved – the former spouses and their children – but it can also be very tough on extended family. This especially applies to grandparents, but aunts, uncles, and cousins can also be affected in a formerly close knit family. Working to maintain family ties is important, and the following tips can help.
Tip #1: Start the conversation
If one of your relatives is getting a divorce, it is up to you to arrange a conversation about the ongoing status of the family. In some cases, the family may elect to have a parent or favored sibling speak on behalf of everyone, while in other cases it is better for everyone to approach the relative independently. The point of this conversation is to let your relative know that you are there to offer support during this hard time, but that you plan to stay connected to the former spouse in some way for the benefit of the kids. This allows your relative a chance to air any concerns they have with the situation and for everyone to come to a consensus on the amount of contact that will be maintained.
Tip #2: Approach the ex
How you approach the former spouse will depend in part on your previous relationship and the agreement you reached with your own relative. If you were close before and have permission to maintain this relationship, extend an invitation for lunch. If you are going to take a polite but slightly more hands-off approach, a simple phone call and offer to help with the kids or some minor task is sufficient to keep the ties with the family. Chances are that the former spouse will not reach out to any one in their ex's family on their own, so it is up to you to make this move.
Tip #3: Bite your tongue
No matter what your personal feelings, do not bad mouth the former spouse in front of your relative, their children, or anyone that may spread what you have said. Negative talk has a way of getting to the person's ears, which can permanently jeopardize any relationship you would have with the ex or the kids. Especially in the case of grandparents, negative talk about the other spouse can affect their chances of visitation, especially if the ex gets custody. Offer a comforting ear, but be careful not to say anything negative.
Tip #4: Seek legal counsel
If the former spouse is not open to any friendly overtures and is refusing to allow the extended family the chance to see the kids, you may need to consult with a family lawyer, like Margit M. Hicks, PA Attorney at Law. Some states give visitation rights to relatives, generally to grandparents, but you may need to go to court to have them enforced.