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Divorce can affect a child’s relationships with extended family

Perhaps your children look forward to seeing their cousins at family events, or they love staying with Grandma and Grandpa during the summer. Regardless, your extended family can play a significant role in your child’s life.

However, these roles and family members often take a back seat when parents decide to divorce. This is natural and common, but there are a few things you should know as you move forward.

Do parents have a legal obligation to preserve family connections?

Under Illinois law, it is in the child’s best interests for parents to encourage children to maintain a relationship with the other parent.

However, state legal guidelines also specify that, after a divorce, a parent’s caretaking functions include helping children maintain other interpersonal relationships with their:

  • Peers and friends
  • Siblings
  • Other family members

The law does not list specific extended family members here, but they could be included under the umbrella term of “other family members.” After all, grandparents can establish visitation rights in certain cases – though such cases are often complex and extreme.

You do not necessarily have a legal obligation but it is important to note that the law does recognize the importance of a child’s relationships with extended family members. They rarely take precedence over the parent-child relationship, but they are worth noting.

So, what should you do?

There are often several other issues that take priority during a divorce – such as arranging your custody agreement. Your child’s relationship with your extended family members might not be one of these immediate priorities, but you should:

  1. Address it with your co-parent: Our Family Wizard suggests that parents should not leave it up to chance that their co-parent will arrange visits between their children and their family. Therefore, you should discuss how you will schedule visits with extended family members.
  2. Consider the child’s wishes and their best interests: Ask your child about including Grandma and Grandpa in a get-together or inviting an aunt to an event. Take their wishes into account. However, you must remember that you also have the power to restrict visits with family members if you believe it is not in the child’s best interests to see them.

There are many details that you have to consider when you seek a divorce. That is why parents should speak with an experienced divorce attorney to help them understand and organize all of these details effectively throughout the process.