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Dear Richard Madeley: 'Should my ex-wife be able to veto my attendance at family gatherings?'

Our agony uncle answers your questions each week. Write to him at dearrichard@wrpcnnpcng.com

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Richard Madeley
"My ex-wife said that if I attended, she would “forbid” our three daughters from attending" Credit: Rii Schroer/Kaja Merle for The Telegraph

Dear Richard

Should my ex-wife still have right of veto over my attendance at family gatherings, 10 years on?

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appI was married for 25 years and have three children. My ex-wife has four siblings, and 10 nephews and nieces. I always got on well with my in-laws. Shortly after we got divorced (she left me), one of her brothers invited me to his 50th birthday party, but then had to withdraw the invitation, as he explained that my ex-wife had said that if I attended, then she would not come, and she would “forbid” our three daughters from attending.

There have been several more big events over the years; each time, my former in-laws have sent pictures, and fond, apologetic messages, but made it clear that they can’t invite me.

Now to add fuel to the fire, I have remarried, and my second wife is similarly finding that we have not been invited to three weddings on her ex-husband’s side. Can you advise me whether there’s any way to break this embargo or, at least, challenge it, without making things worse?

Anon, via email

Dear Anon

Your former in-laws, however fond of you they are, are being presented with a simple binary choice by your ex. “My way, or the highway. Me, or him.” She’s forcing them to decide who they’d rather have at the family feast – blood, or outsider. That’s why your children aren’t shut out – they’re blood. It’s almost biblically brutal, but it’s a timeless trope. This is sad, and in my view destructive, but it’s largely the norm, I’m afraid. Look at what’s happening with your second wife’s former in-laws – the same polite exclusion, exactly along the lines you’re experiencing.

It’s useless either of you appealing to your former extended families because they’ve already picked sides. That doesn’t mean they particularly like the choices they’ve been forced to make but, when push comes to shove, bloodline usually trumps ex-in-law line.

The only possible way to change the situation is to appeal directly to your ex. Lots of couples manage to conduct friendly arrangements post-divorce, usually to the relief, even delight, of their children.

That’s your strongest card. Write to your former wife (don’t call or visit her personally, it’ll almost certainly end up in a row) respectfully pointing out how much happier your shared children would be if her veto was quietly dropped. Gently suggest she consult them on the matter. But tread softly. Don’t make accusations or judgments. “Play nice”, as one of the most eminent divorce lawyers in the land advises her clients. This isn’t about winning or scoring a point – it’s about making a change for the better.

 

Dear Richard Madeley: 'Should my ex-wife be able to veto my attendance at family gatherings?'