Etiquette Rules with In-Laws During and After Divorce

Divorce doesn’t just end a marriage. It also reshapes all the relationships that were built around your marriage. Especially if you have kids, your in-laws could remain a significant part of their lives – and yours – long after your divorce. 

How can you navigate your divorce process, maintain healthy boundaries for yourself, and keep the doors open for a future relationship with your ex-spouse’s family?

How to act during divorce proceedings

Divorce is difficult for everyone, including your in-laws. After all, they may have been a significant part of your and your family’s life throughout your marriage. Now, your divorce will affect them as well, whether that’s negatively or positively. 

Either way, you need your own time and head space while you’re going through the nuts and bolts of your divorce proceedings. Whether you have a good relationship with your in-laws and they’re sorry to see you go or they’re breaking out the champagne at your divorce news, it’s a good time to steer clear of your ex’s parents and other family if you can.

Set clear boundaries

With your in-laws or any other outside relationships, you’ll need to establish clear boundaries for your own mental and emotional health. It’s stressful enough to be dealing with a divorce. You don’t want to be fielding misunderstandings and overreach during this time. 

Limit conversations with your in-laws to those that are absolutely necessary. Be clear about what you expect regarding time spent with the kids. You don’t have to be surly, just factual. The clearer you are about what you’re willing to accept (and not accept) from them right now reduces the risk of miscommunication and misunderstandings. 

Stay respectful

Keep your conversations with and about your in-laws respectful, regardless of how you really feel at the moment. This is especially important if they will remain a part of your life as your kids’ grandparents. Avoid burning those bridges now to make your post-divorce life easier.

If your in-laws won’t be in your future or can’t manage to be respectful toward you, it’s best to keep as much distance as possible from them during divorce proceedings for your own well-being and that of your family.

Inform them as needed

You deserve privacy during your divorce, but there may be updates or changes your in-laws should be aware of. In most cases, however, your soon-to-be ex should be in charge of keeping their family updated about your divorce. 

Don’t involve them in your legal decisions or process

Divorce is complicated and emotional without the involvement of other family members. Your in-laws don’t need to be apprised of all your decisions or your legal process. These should be between you, your spouse, and your legal help. Period. 

Don’t rely on them for support

Even if you were closer to your in-laws than you are to your own family, you can expect your relationship to change. If you’re looking for emotional support, you’re better off looking for that in friends, your own family members, a support group, or a supportive professional like a therapist.

What happens when the divorce is finalized?

You haven’t just dissolved your marriage; you’ve changed the dynamics of the family that came with your marriage. 

Expect things to be very different from when you were married. After all, this is your ex’s family. If they must choose sides, they probably won’t choose yours. 

Don’t expect them to maintain contact – or require yourself to

You may have a difficult time figuring out how to navigate a new relationship with your former in-laws after divorce. And maybe you won’t even have to. 

If you had an emotionally tentative relationship with your in-laws to begin with and have no kids to consider, feel free to cut contact with them entirely. No more uncomfortable debates about where you’ll spend holiday dinners and vacations. No more side-glances about your housekeeping capabilities. You’re free. 

If they’re your kids' grandparents, respect that 

You may not be “friendly,” but you should be cordial. These people are still part of your children’s lives. Consequently, they will still be part of your life.

Make things easy on yourself by being as gracious and polite as possible. Don’t speak badly about your in-laws to your kids, no matter how you feel about them.

If your in-laws have become cold or rude to you, let your ex be the go-between who makes arrangements for holidays and visits. Keep your contact with them to a minimum. 

Remember that time heals

During and immediately after divorce, emotions run high, and family members will take sides. It’s human nature, and there’s not much you can do about it. But time has a way of taking the edge off grievances and healing old wounds. Eventually, you may be able to find common ground with your ex’s family. If you had close relationships with them, you may even get some of the old closeness back. When given a fair chance and enough time, there’s often no limit to the resilience of people and relationships in our lives.

Divorce is far more than a single legal transaction, and often, it affects the whole family. At Hello Divorce, we are here to help you move through and beyond your divorce in the easiest and most cost-effective way possible. Learn more about our online divorce plans, flat-rate related professional services, and extensive library of resources.

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.