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How does divorce impact extended family relationships?

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2023 | Divorce

Marriage is not just a union of two people but also their blood relatives. Thus, when a nuclear family breaks apart, so do their extended families.

An extended family, which is a catch-all term for generations of people related to both spouses, can include aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, grandparents and in-laws. As much as a couple’s marriage binds them together, divorce can also disrupt their formed connections.

Knowing how divorce impacts family dynamics can help divorced couples anticipate the surge of changes, protect their child’s best interests and preserve as many bonds as they can.

Navigating reimagined relationships

Research on post-divorce extended family relationships revealed how divorced individuals maintained contact and closeness with extended family members, who still had perceived influence on their lives. Respondents also showed higher levels of continuing relations with their own families than those of their ex-spouses.

The same study pointed out how extended families can either be a source of support or stress during divorce. With a multigenerational structure under consideration, divorced couples can make necessary preparations for the following changes:

  • Modified traditions: Family customs or rituals are part of a person’s identity. Who will attend and what takes place during gatherings or holiday festivities may now become different to adjust to new dynamics.
  • Financial considerations: Some divorced couples may formerly agree to support a struggling loved one. For example, new arrangements must be in place if they have been funding the education of a spouse’s cousin.
  • Specific restrictions: If certain family members endanger the child or prove unfit to perform caretaking functions, the custody agreement may include provisions that uphold the child’s well-being.

While divorce brings a wave of changes happening simultaneously, the divorced couple and their extended families can mitigate the impact by finding reassurance that it is a shared experience. They can endure together through mutual respect and open communication.

Forging lasting relationships

Extended families are also critical in striking a sense of normalcy in the child’s life. The familiar faces and routines can comfort the child during fragile times. If divorced couples find it challenging to build lasting relationships, they must at least do it for their child. With multiple things to account for, a forward-thinking legal team can help parties ease into their new family circumstances.