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Social Conventions

Social Conventions

Even in the most difficult of personal situations, courteous and considerate behaviour can help to reduce unnecessary animosity and distress.

Spreading the News
When announcing a divorce to friends and family, ensure that you are the one to spread the news – don’t let it permeate your social circle through gossip and innuendo.

Immediate family and close friends should be informed, wherever possible, in person. Other family and friends can then be contacted; an email or brief note can suffice. To counter any possible incredulity, it is always wise to state clearly that the divorce is a difficult decision and a last resort, and to stress that every possible effort has been made to save the marriage.

If children are involved, they will be the focus of many people’s concern, and it helps to demonstrate that they are also the number one priority, and that you are working hard to agree amicable arrangements.

Divorced people should be aware of the potential difficulties and embarrassment that their friends and relations may experience and should ensure that they are always flexible and accommodating.

Reactions to Divorce
The friends and family of a divorcing couple may need to employ extreme discretion and to master the art of being non-committal – especially if children are involved – even though their loyalties may naturally incline to one partner.

In socially compromising situations when, for example, you may be invited to an event by one of the ex-partners and feel that attending would be an act of disloyalty to the other partner, confront the problem directly. Talk to the people involved, explain your dilemma, and ask them what they would prefer you to do.

Present Etiquette
The engagement ring is an outright present given to the woman on the condition of marriage, and having met that condition, she is entitled to keep it even after the marriage’s dissolution. If the ring is a precious heirloom, handed down to the bridegroom, its return is entirely at the woman’s discretion.

Wedding presents are, of course, gifts to both parties. The best guide for distributing these goods after a divorce is to pay attention to their original provenance. If they emanate from the husband’s side of the family, then he may have first refusal, and vice versa.

Sending Invitations to Divorced Couples
If you are issuing invitations to a big occasion and want both ex-partners to attend, it is wise to enclose a note with the invitation explaining that the other partner has also been invited – especially if the divorce is recent and social relations have not normalised. When drawing up seating plans for a formal occasion you should respect the estrangement, and ensure that divorced couples are not seated together or in close proximity.

Divorce & Weddings

Attending an Ex-Partner’s Wedding
Traditionally, ex-partners weren’t invited to remarriages, but social conventions have become more fluid and invitations may be extended. Ex-partners should feel no obligation to attend, even if children are involved, and are quite within their rights to decline gracefully (no apologies or explanations are needed).

Second Marriages and Integrating Children
It is understandable that the bride and groom will want children from previous relationships to be involved in the celebration of their new marriage. Children are often happy to play a special role, such a being a bridesmaid, pageboy, or even best man, but they should always be consulted in case they wish to stay in the background. The couple must discuss these issues at an early stage, both with the children and with ex-partners.

When embarking on a second marriage, it is advisable to acknowledge previous marriages if this prevents children, friends, and even ex-in-laws from feeling confused or rejected.

When children are in attendance it is quite appropriate to make reference to them and therefore to a previous marriage in the speeches – keep any allusions wry, affectionate and light-hearted.

Children’s Weddings
Divorced parents who are planning the wedding of a daughter or son will need to bear in mind that they may want both their parents (and their new partners/spouses, if necessary) to attend the wedding. If this is what they want, parents should do their utmost to accommodate their wishes.

Even if divorced parents are not hosting the wedding (eg if their son is marrying, or if their son or daughter is organising the wedding for themselves), the same rules apply. Unless they are completely estranged, they must assume that they are both expected to attend and, whatever the circumstances, should accede to their children’s wishes with the minimum of fuss.

sad family
Divorce & Funerals

Ex-In-Laws’ Funerals
Divorce doesn’t necessarily terminate relationships with the ex-partner’s family. Many people find that their quarrel is with their ex-partner only, and may feel nothing but affection for his/ her parents, siblings and so on. If this is the case, they may well continue to see them regularly, and expect to attend significant family funerals.

In cases like this, it is only natural for divorced partners to want to attend the funerals of former in-laws, and it is quite socially acceptable to do so. They should be careful not to make assumptions about their inclusion within the ranks of the bereaved family and should not head for the family pews at the front, or walk behind the coffin at the end of the service.

The possible exception to this rule is when an ex-partner is accompanying a small child – for example to an ex-father-inlaw’s funeral. In this case, the relationship with the deceased’s grandchild may entitle the divorced parent to ‘family status’. If in doubt, they should discreetly ask a member of the family where to sit.

It is wise to maintain a tactful and dignified distance and never upstage the blood family when it comes to displays of grief.

Ex-Partner’s Funeral
In some instances, when a divorced partner has remarried and repudiated their first marriage, ex-partners may find themselves airbrushed out of the new family. This exclusion may well extend to the aftermath of a death. In cases like this, it might be wise to avoid the funeral service altogether, or seek guidance from a family friend to check whether your presence might cause distress. If there is a memorial service, attending that may be an easier alternative.

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