July 2007 - Divorce and Your
When you get divorced, one of the things you may be glad
about is that your in-laws are technically no longer related to you. If you
had a difficult relationship with them, divorce might feel like a get out of
jail free card in this respect. If you have a child, however, your in-laws are
and will always be his or her grandparents. The divorce does not change that
relationship at all.
The Effect of the Parenting Plan
When you and your ex create a parenting plan, your primary concern is arranging
a schedule that works for both parents and your child. Often one of the other
unintended effects of the parenting plan is to impact when the children will
be able to see their grandparents. This impacts both sets of grandparents, because
it is generally weekends that parents end up splitting – the time when children
would be most likely to see their grandchildren. It becomes more and more difficult
for children to see their grandparents after a divorce, particularly if one
parent has limited access.
Most parenting plans do not specifically address time for grandparents. Some
grandparents feel cut out of their grandchildren’s lives after a divorce – most
often those who are the parents of the non-residential parent. Some grandparents
even go to court to seek court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren.
This is an extreme, and in most cases, this type of conflict can be avoided.
Plan for Grandparents
As a parent, your primary concern is making sure your child is healthy and happy.
Grandparents are an important part of your child’s life. You may not like or
respect your in-laws, but their bond with your child is real and does deserve
to be supported. Unless your in-laws place your child in danger, it is usually
a good idea for your child to have contact with them.
This means that you need to find time in your child’s life
for those grandparents. One way to do this is to flex your parenting schedule
so that your children are with your ex during scheduled events with the grandparents
– family get-togethers, parties and so on.
One common problem is a non-residential parent who barely
uses his own visitation, let alone takes the kids to see his parents. In this
situation, you can develop your own post-divorce relationship with the grandparents
and arrange times they can spend with your child. Allowing them to spend an
afternoon or a day with your child every month is not going to significantly
cut into your parenting time. You aren’t so selfish that you refuse to let your
child spend time with friends, so why should you stand in the way of a grandparent-child
relationship? You don’t punish your ex or the in-laws by standing in the way,
you instead punish your child.
Develop a Role for Grandparents
Grandparents can play an important supporting role in your child’s life, and
in yours as well. If you and your former in-laws can agree to not talk about
the divorce or the parts of it you disagree on, you can probably agree that
you want your child to be loved and cared for. Grandparents can provide a lot
of love and fun for your child, and can also be very helpful to you as babysitters.
With a little effort, you and your former in-laws can develop an entirely new
relationship that will benefit everyone.