What Do You Call Your Mother-In-Law After Divorce
Divorce is a transition in every sense of the word. You are not only ending your primary relationship with your spouse but are also going to experience shifts in other relationships, which include the relationship you’ve built with your mother-in-law – whatever that happens to look like. While some divorced couples maintain a very friendly and supporting relationship moving forward, many others do not, and generally, the state of your relationship with your ex will directly affect your ongoing relationship with your mother-in-law.
Every relationship, however, is unique, and finding your way with your mother-in-law post-divorce will follow its own path, which makes having a handle on the following basics a great idea. Turn to an experienced Texas divorce attorney for all your questions and concerns related to divorce.
The primary matter when it comes to your relationship with your mother-in-law after a divorce is that you will almost certainly experience a change in allegiance on her part, which can range from minor to extreme. The bottom line is that your mother-in-law is your ex’s mother, and it’s only natural for her to side with her son or daughter to one degree or another. Even if your ex is clearly at fault for the dissolution of your marriage, their mother will need to support them – at least outwardly. In other words, don’t take this shift personally – it’s par for the course, and you will likely find a way to maintain some sort of relationship with your mother-in-law.
Shutting You Out
Another important point to make is that your mother-in-law may not have the relationship skills to face her relationship with you after your divorce, which can lead to her shutting you out altogether. This can be especially painful if you’ve established a close relationship over time, but it may be your mother-in-law’s only defense mechanism in the face of this serious upset in her child’s life. If your mother-in-law shuts you out, the best policy is generally giving her the space she needs to come to terms with the situation and to try again later. The cold shoulder she’s giving you is not necessarily permanent, and it’s likely not even personal.
If You’re Ready to Cut Ties
If the table is turned, and your divorce is an excuse for you to cut ties with a mother-in-law you never felt close to in the first place, could never please, or simply didn’t like, it’s your opportunity to walk away from the relationship without too much difficulty. There are, however, some very important points to keep in mind:
- If you share children with your ex, your mother-in-law remains their grandmother, which makes maintaining a friendly – or at least civil – relationship with your mother-in-law a worthy goal.
- Taking the high road in the matter and honoring the relationship you and your mother-in-law were able to forge over the course of your marriage is likely to serve both of you well. This is not a bridge you have to burn.
- You may be surprised by your mother-in-law’s compassion in this difficult situation, and if this isn’t the case, you shouldn’t beat yourself up for taking the precautions necessary to protect yourself and your emotions.
Putting the Kids First
As mentioned, your mother-in-law remains your children’s grandmother, which makes putting some effort into maintaining the strongest relationship you can with her a good plan. If she is a loving grandma whom your children adore, putting your children’s best interests first by continuing to foster their relationship with her is the best path forward.
This doesn’t mean that you and your mother-in-law need to be best friends, but keeping the following pointers in mind can help:
- Following your mother-in-law’s lead on this one is well-advised. If she’s looking to maintain a close relationship with you, it’s worth putting some effort into it. If, on the other hand, she’s being especially standoffish, give her some space.
- Making it your policy not to bad mouth your mother-in-law in front of your kids and to honor your children’s enthusiasm for her is the best gift you can give your children in this trying time.
- Facilitating your mother-in-law’s ability to spend quality time with your children is the right thing to do, and it can go a long way toward strengthening your relationship with her post-divorce.
When your focus is on what’s best for your children, you’ll know you’re doing what you can to salvage your relationship with your mother-in-law.
If Your Mother-in-Law Is Your Babysitter
If your mother-in-law is your primary babysitter, it can change the landscape of things. What was once a family arrangement that likely worked well for everyone involved may now feel a bit different. This is a situation in which it’s likely best for everyone – you, your ex, and your mother-in-law – to come together and hammer out the details.
When the involved adults are all focused on what’s best for the kids, maintaining the status quo is generally the best policy. If, however, your ex, your mother-in-law, or both are feeling hurt or vindictive, striking the right balance in terms of a babysitting schedule may not be possible. In fact, you may need to make other arrangements when the children are with you.
If your mother-in-law continues in her role as one of your regular babysitters, you’ll need to focus on the following:
- Keep the lines of communication between you, your ex, and your mother-in-law open. In order to care for your children, your mother-in-law needs to know what’s going on with them, which requires communication between all of you.
- If texts or emails work better than calls and face-to-face exchanges when it comes to communicating with your mother-in-law, they’re a viable option.
- Don’t overstep your bounds. Your mother-in-law’s home may have been an extension of your own when you were married to her child, but things have changed – and you’ll want to respect her boundaries.
- Remember that your mother-in-law is helping you out, which makes showing your appreciation key.
Set Clear Boundaries
While there are instances in which a mother-in-law and their son or daughter’s ex are able to maintain the same open and loving relationship after divorce that they had prior, this is the exception rather than the rule. Your relationship is almost certain to change with divorce, and you’ll want to set clear boundaries that allow you to find your way forward.
If your mother-in-law was in the habit of simply stopping by and hanging out at your home while you were married to her son or daughter, this might not be something you’re comfortable with post-divorce. By letting your mother-in-law know what works for you, you help set the stage for a healthy, ongoing relationship with her.
It is also – of course – important to recognize your mother-in-law’s boundaries and to respect them. If she doesn’t express these boundaries to you outright, you’ll need to be on the lookout for clues and let them be your guide. The best starting position is taking a less-familiar approach and building your way back to a closer relationship – if that’s in the cards for you.
Give Yourself Time to Grieve
Divorce has a way of coming at you fast, and along with it come some serious ups and downs. This can include having mixed feelings about your relationship with your mother-in-law. For example, if you and she were besties throughout your marriage, you may also be grieving the loss of this loving relationship. If – on the other hand – your relationship with your ex’s mother was strained from the beginning, you may be tense about ever seeing her again. The fact is that your feelings about your mother-in-law can run the gamut, and you owe it to yourself to process them fully.
No one else expects you to be the perfect ex-in-law right out of the gate, and you shouldn’t, either. By allowing yourself the space and time you need to come to terms with this difficult transition, you’ll find the right path forward for you.
Don’t Be Surprised if Problems Arise
If your mother-in-law caused problems during your marriage, expecting her to lay off after your divorce is unrealistic. In fact, she may focus her efforts even more carefully on making things difficult for you. However, even if you and your mother-in-law are able to strike a healthy balance in your relationship after your divorce, issues are bound to arise, and accepting them as part of the process will serve you well. Minor skirmishes are to be expected, and if you come up against a more significant issue, professional help is available.
If Your Mother-in-Law is Seeking Grandparent Rights
In Texas, grandparents – in certain situations – are afforded limited visitation or access rights in relation to their grandchildren.
The Easiest Path Forward
If your mother-in-law wants to maintain a close relationship with your children, the easiest and best path forward is to maintain a positive relationship with both parents. In other words, it’s in your mother-in-law’s best interests to forge a reasonably friendly – or civil – relationship with you. In the end, however, your mother-in-law only needs the permission of one parent in order to spend time with the kids – as long as she sees them during that parent’s visitation schedule and barring any serious reason for the court to rule otherwise.
Visitation Sought through the Court
There are limited instances when a grandparent can seek court-ordered visitation of a grandchild in the State of Texas. Texas courts begin with the presumption that fit parents act in their children’s best interests, and parents are presumed to be fit – in the absence of compelling proof that they are not. Because Texas courts always rule in favor of the children’s best interests, the wishes of their parents hold considerable sway.
The only time a grandparent can obtain visitation with their grandchildren that goes against the wishes of the parents is when the court deems the visitation in the best interests of the children, and the parents are divorced. It’s important to note that grandparents have no absolute legal rights in Texas. Instead, the courts take things on a case-by-case basis, and only in limited circumstances do they grant access that is not in keeping with the parent’s preferences.
A Shift in Attitude
The best way to maintain a healthy relationship with your mother-in-law moving forward is by tweaking your attitude once you’ve ridden the emotional rollercoaster that is divorce and you’re ready to move forward. Toward this end, there are several attitude adjustments that can really help – without losing sight of what’s best for you.
Don’t Harbor Unrealistic Expectations
If you had a great relationship with your mother-in-law throughout your marriage, you might want to maintain it, which is only natural. If this is the case, it’s important to ratchet down your expectations and follow the natural progression of your post-divorce relationship.
Setting unrealistic expectations at the outset can lead to disappointment that can take a toll on your overall well-being and on the relationship you’re hoping to salvage. When you make room for an upset or two, you’ll be far better prepared to weather any storms that come your way, and if your relationship is smooth sailing from the start, you’ll be ahead of the game.
If, on the other hand, you and your mother-in-law never saw eye to eye and you’re expecting fireworks right out of the gate, you may need to adjust your expectations even further downwards. Divorce can be that unsettling, and by keeping your expectations very low, you won’t be setting yourself up for any major disappointments.
Be as Flexible as You Can
There are no hard and fast guidelines when it comes to preserving a relationship with your mother-in-law after a divorce but taking a flexible stance is guaranteed to help. Both you and your mother-in-law are bound to experience your own personal waves of emotions, and it may take some time for you to find new and comfortable patterns with one another. If you share children with your ex, it’s unlikely that you and your mother-in-law’s paths will never cross again, which makes remaining flexible the best way to establish a new normal.
Be Patient – with Yourself and Your Mother-in-Law
You and your mother-in-law are both attempting to forge a new post-divorce relationship, and you may both experience some growing pains along the way. If you can find it within yourself to forgive your own missteps – and those that your mother-in-law might make – you’ll be far better situated to find a comfortable relationship groove with her after your divorce. Having the patience to step back and accept that things are changing, that you’ll both need to adapt, and that it won’t always be easy can make a big difference.
Maintain Respect for Your Mother-in-Law
The best way to honor the marriage you had and to honor your children’s relationship with their grandmother is by maintaining respect for her throughout this difficult process. You don’t have to be in agreement with your mother-in-law on every issue – or even to like each other much – in order to show one another respect. Even if your mother-in-law can’t reciprocate the respect you show her, this is a teachable moment for your children that will help them recognize the importance of respect in the relationships we build.
Be Direct When You Need to Be
Being flexible, patient, and realistic regarding your relationship with your mother-in-law is important, but you’ll also need to be direct if an issue arises that crosses a line. For example, if your mother-in-law doesn’t feel the need to buckle your children safely up for trips in the car, this is a matter that needs to be addressed directly, and backing down isn’t an option. In the end, your children’s safety and well-being have to come first.
Remember What Matters Most
Your children love their grandmother, and their grandmother loves them. Ultimately, the more people who genuinely love and support your children, the better, and a grandmother’s love is difficult to beat. Putting time and care into fostering the ongoing relationship between your children and their grandmother is well worth the effort. If you and your mother-in-law are able to maintain a reasonably amicable relationship along the way, that’s great, but even if this is out of the question, doing right by your children can make up for a lot.
Reach Out to an Experienced Texas Divorce Attorney Today
The accomplished Texas divorce attorneys at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth – proudly serving both Fort Worth and Southlake – have a wealth of experience protecting the financial and parental rights of clients like you throughout the divorce process, and we’re committed to helping you gain the emotional tools you’ll need to successfully navigate your post-divorce life.
The outcome of your unique case will play a critical role in your future, so please don’t put off reaching out and contacting us online or calling us at 817-952-6723 for more information about what we can do to help you today. Our legal team is ready to help.