Dealing With Your Child’s Divorce When You’re A Grandparent

If you just heard the news that your son or daughter is planning to divorce, it can stir up a number of emotions and concerns on your part. Will you be able to see your grandchildren as frequently with a child custody arrangement in place? What about holidays that your entire family celebrated together? Does your child getting a divorce mean you need to “divorce” your son- or daughter-in-law, even if you have always gotten along? Here are some divorce tips just for grandparents.  

Visitation: In New Jersey, family courts take into several factors when considering formal visitation claims on the part of grandparents, with the bottom line being whether grandparents’ visitation time is necessary to avoid harm to the child. You can see the eight specific factors listed here: Do Grandparents Have Rights?

Extending the Olive Branch: If you don’t think you formally qualify for visitation, there are other ways you can still see your grandchildren. One of the easiest ways is to simply ask. If your son and daughter-in-law are divorcing (or vice-versa), depending on the circumstances, you may want to take a deep breath and reach our to your child’s former spouse and let them know that you hope the two of you can maintain positive relations for the sake of your grandchild.

You could offer to babysit when the parents need to go to court or mediation sessions, or serve as an emergency caregiver if one is ever needed. If you go about this in an open, caring way, you may be surprised at the positive response you receive. If you have traditionally acted as your child’s babysitter or after school caregiver, your former daughter- or son-in-law may be glad to hear from you that you wish this relationship to continue.

Holidays & Birthdays: As for family get-togethers, this too will be a matter of involved parties trying to set aside their negative emotions for the sake of their child. You can make it known that your child’s former spouse is always welcome during the holidays, or you may want to switch the traditional family holiday meal, or birthday party, to coincide with your child’s parenting time.

Minding Your Business: Keep in mind, too, that this is your child’s divorce, and you may not be fully privy to all the details of why your child’s marriage is ending. If your child needs to make a clean break from their former spouse, or has a new partner they wish to bring to holiday gatherings, be respectful of this. While you can have your own relationship with your former son- or daughter-on-law, always understand that your child has the right to make choices about their relationships.

When it comes to figuring out post-divorce relationships, some of these dynamics situations can be tricky to figure out, but if you keep in mind that family comes first, it is usually easier to see which decisions are the right one.