The Five Most Important Reasons Why and When NOT To Put Wedding and Family Photographs Away When The Parents of Our Grandchildren Get Divorced

In the May 18, 2021, Washington Post, Ms. Manners answered the following question at the end of her advice column:

Dear Miss Manners: When your child gets a divorce, when should you put the wedding pictures and other family photos away?”

Miss Manners’ answer:

When your child gets a divorce.”

That is an easy answer when there are no grandchildren. It is much too simplistic when one is a grandparent.

What message does that give to your grandchildren when the divorced parent is not your child? That parent is still their parent. They love both parents and are part of both parents. Do you want them to feel that the part that is the other parent is bad or not deserving of respect?

First, in the opinion of this retired family court judge, circumstances may depend on the ages of the children when their parents’ divorce. Babies and toddlers will not notice, if that is your choice.

School age and older, especially teenage and adult, grandchildren will notice. Respect for the grandchildren is respect for both of their parents.

Second, photos of life passage events and family vacations that include the divorced parents do memorialize important family history. That is an easy way and easy excuse to keep out pictures that include the parent who is not your child when the parent who is your child objects. Do we want the grandchildren to not see these when they already might question whether the family was a happy one or their happy memories are a lie? This is an especially important consideration, the older the grandchildren are, especially teenage and adult grandchildren.

Third, the acrimony between the parents of the grandchildren may be a major consideration for the parent of our grandchildren, however, grandparents are not only a role model of civility, they are a role model of love and neutrality as well. Remember, the parents of the grandchildren will eventually conclude their emotional divorce and move forward. What previously might be considered disloyalty to the parent of your grandchildren who is your child might change. Save the photos if you temporarily decide to keep peace with your child.

Whatever you personally feel about the divorce, grandparents love their grandchildren, and should love their grandchildren more than we may hate a parent of our grandchildren.

Fourth, grandparents have the best reasons to remain neutral. With neutrality, the gatekeepers keep the gates open to our grandchildren, and grandchildren need us even more when their lives are in turmoil. We want to offer our time, love, support, and make them know they are our priority. Their needs come first, above the needs of their parents. Security and sameness in our homes is important. There are too many changes in their lives.

Neutrality is not changing our homes and how we are when the parents of our grandchildren are present with the grandchildren. Do what works for you and the parent who is your child when the grandchildren are not present.

Finally, fifth, there is one IMPORTANT consideration not yet presented. Family law is different in every state in the United States. Upon the parents of your grandchildren announcing they are divorcing, learn about grandparent visitation rights in your state and the state in which the parents of your minor aged grandchildren live with them. Most states do not have generous grandparent visitation rights, if they have them at all.

Grandparent rights vary greatly state by state.

That most states do not have grandparent rights means that if something happens to the parent who is your child, the other parent becomes sole custodian and makes all the decisions for the grandchildren, including whether you have access to and a relationship with your grandchildren who are minors. Some states give grandparent visitation rights only when the parent who is their child dies and the grandchildren are minors and most put restrictions and burdens on the grandparents to show that grandparent visitation would be in the best interests of the grandchildren.

What you do, when you do it, and how you act during the divorce of the parents of your grandchildren has more serious consequences than just taking photos away.

When should you take photos away when your child divorces, especially if you have grandchildren?

Maybe some of the time. Maybe all the time. Maybe none of the time. It depends. After you consider all of the issues, the alternatives, and the consequences. . . .especially to our precious grandchildren.

Joy,

Mema

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