If you and your former spouse had children together, you will always be “family” in some sense of the word. You are tied together by your child’s very existence. How you choose to treat that reality is ultimately up to you. If your former spouse is abusive or unfit, you may benefit from speaking with an attorney about modifying your custody arrangements in order to eliminate or seriously limit his or her contact with your child. In most cases however, your former spouse will remain in your life as long as your child chooses to remain in his or her life.

Depending on how your child custody arrangements are structured, you may be compelled to communicate with your former spouse frequently or infrequently. Similarly, you may be compelled to see your former spouse frequently or infrequently. Your relationship may be relatively amicable, volatile or somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Finding a way to think of your spouse as “family” may be uniquely difficult for you.

However, it is likely important for you to begin thinking of your former spouse as family for the sake of your children. Even very young children can pick up on parental tension and it affects their perceptions not only of you but also of themselves. Despite your differences and despite any lingering hurts tied to the past, if you and your co-parent can work together amicably for the sake of your child, over time you may start to view your former spouse as family without any hesitation.

Source: The New York Times, “Our Marriage Ended. Our Family Did Not.,” Jessica Ciencin Henriquez, Nov. 23, 2014