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

I have addressed this issue before, and seems that it is time to address it again.  Sometimes simple answers do not provide a complete answer to a question. 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?

In Florida, a divorce is called a dissolution of marriage. First, in the opinion of this retired family court judge, circumstances may depend on the ages of the children upon their parents’ divorce or dissolution of marriage.  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 parents 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, unconditional love, and support to our grandchildren. Grandchildren should know they are our priority.  We are the respite, neutral, not involved in the parents’ drama, not questioning or commenting, shielding the grandchildren as much as possible.  Therapists are for grandchildren who need intervention and assistance during their parents’ divorce, and even if we may be therapists as a profession, we are too emotionally involved to get involved.  The grandchildren’s needs should come first as they are children, above the needs of their adult parents. Security and sameness in our homes is important. There are too many changes in their lives.

Neutrality also means 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 or within earshot.

Finally, fifth, there is one IMPORTANT consideration not yet presented. Family law is different in every state in the United States. Although a parent may feel that there is “fault” for the divorce, “no fault” divorce is the norm, not the exception.  There is good reason not to get intertwined in the reasons for the divorce, blame, drama, and cause estrangement.  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.  It could mean possibly never seeing your grandchildren again at some point in their lives when they are still minors.  As a family court judge, I was asked to intervene by grandparents who were cut out of the lives of their grandchildren.  I did not have the ability to do so under the laws of the state of Florida.

When should you take family photographs 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.



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