If summer has always been a time when your family took vacations with your in-laws and your kids got to spend time with their cousins, you may be realizing that your divorce means the end of these get-togethers. It may also be the end of big family gatherings.
While it may be fine with you if you never see your in-laws again, your children may feel very differently. Their grandparents on both sides will likely continue to be involved in their lives – if they always have been. However, it’s important for them to be able to maintain relationships with other family members as well.
Cousins can be especially close – sometimes almost as close as siblings. Many kids have an aunt or uncle they’re close to – one they consider more fun and interesting than their parents.
Commit to letting your kids participate in activities with in-laws
You have no problem with your co-parent taking them to see their siblings and their kids while they have custody. But what if a cousin is having a birthday party on one of “your” days with the kids? What if your brother-in-law is renting a cabin and offers to take your kids along with his own to go fishing on your scheduled weekend?
These are the kind of things that will come up – probably on both sides of the family. If you and your co-parent can commit to making parenting time trade-offs for these occasions, your kids can continue to maintain these important relationships.
Have a “no bad-mouthing” rule on both sides
Of course, you can’t be expected to go out of your way to let your kids be with your in-laws if all they’re going to do is criticize or insult you to or in front of your children. It’s best for you and your co-parent to have a “non-disparagement” agreement that extends to how family members talk about you when your kids (and theirs) are around. You can’t stop them, but you can agree to deal with the issue if it surfaces.
If you have extended family members who are important to your children, it may be wise to add a clause in your parenting plan to help ensure that these relationships can continue and grow. With legal guidance, you can codify something that works for your family.