How Do I Deal with In-Laws during My Divorce?

Divorce tends to be hard on everyone. It will emotionally impact you, your spouse, your children, and all of your relatives in some way or another.

Of course, your relatives during your marriage include your in-laws. You may have great, poor, or neutral relationships with these people, but one of the hardest things people learn about divorce is that they now have to consider their in-laws from a new perspective.

If you had great relationships with your in-laws, this can change for the worse – either because of animosity generated because of the divorce, or simply because these people no longer consider you family (or vice versa). If you had poor relationships with your in-laws, then you’ll want to be especially careful about how you deal with them to minimize the risk of their interference in your divorce.

Expect Things to Change

Divorce is a fundamental change in the makeup of your family, so the best way to prepare yourself for that change is to expect it. Expect to lose relationships with your in-laws, if only because it can make things more complicated to still be “in the picture” after your divorce settles. Now, this doesn’t mean you should purposely dismantle mutually appreciated relationships, just that you shouldn’t expect them to outlast your divorce.

If you genuinely wish to keep in touch with in-laws and the feeling is mutual, then you and these people will find a way to make that work. That said, your partner may ask their relatives to cut ties with you. How they regard such a request is up to them.

Establish Boundaries & Expectations

When you expect your relationship with your in-laws to change, you can also establish boundaries and expectations for how you wish to be treated going forward. If you’re the one who wishes to cut ties with your in-laws, then you should make it clear that you no longer wish to harbor a relationship with these people.

If you still want to be connected to your in-laws but to a lesser degree, then you should ask for changes that would accommodate your needs. For example, you may no longer wish to be a part of family text chat groups or be invited to family events – wherever you wish to place your boundaries, don’t be afraid to do so. Just make it clear to your in-laws how you need things to change going forward.

Don’t Withhold Children from Their Grandparents

Unless you have reasonable concerns about your children’s health and safety when spending time with your soon-to-be ex’s parents, don’t withhold them from these in-laws. The courts recognize the importance that grandparents play in a child’s life, and under certain circumstances, your in-laws can sue for visitation if they feel you are withholding your child from them.

Expect Problems to Come Up

In an ideal situation, problems between you and your former in-laws won’t arise. That said, it’s rare for no problems to ever come up – especially when you have children that will be in contact with your former in-laws.

When that’s the case, your relationship with these people may never truly end, which leaves the possibility for conflict open. The best thing to do is understand what everyone’s expectations and boundaries are and enforce your own. React as calmly as possible, and remove yourself from any situation where your reaction could worsen it.

Remember: If you have children, emotional outbursts and any kind of violence against used against an in-law could put your custody or visitation rights in jeopardy.