Step-Children and Divorce – Parenting Plans for Blended Families
What happens to your relationship with your step-children after your divorce from their parent? This is a hard question to answer because the lines are so blurry.
If step-children have lived with you during your marriage to their parent, you have likely developed a close relationship with them, and perhaps they feel even closer to you than to their natural parent. This is not unusual, especially when there's been a lot of conflict between the natural parents. Or, you might be the only mom or dad they know.
Blended families may also include children that the two of you have had together. They consider your step-children to be their brothers and sisters, and often have a strong bond with them.
If you are a blended family experiencing separation or divorce, and there has been a good bond between step-parent and step-children, here are some questions to consider in your parenting plan:
- What will parenting time look like?
- How will this work when the step-children also have established schedules with both natural parents?
- If there are also children from this marriage, how will you ensure that they also get to spend time with their step-siblings?
- If there are step-children on both sides, do they have a bond with each other that would be beneficial to maintain?
While the courts are pretty clear about establishing parenting plans for children of the marriage, they can vary widely when asked to adopt a plan that includes step-children. The courts are starting to accept the concept that the step-parent can have as deep a psychological bond as a natural parent. And while court-ordered parenting plans involving step-children are appearing more frequently, it is safer to work out your own agreement than leave these important issues up to the unpredictability of the courts.
Creativity is the key to working out parenting plans in blended families. Just as creativity made your blended family work in the first place, creativity can help your blended families ease the pains of separation and divorce. Flexibility is also essential.
Working with a caring, experienced attorney and/or mediator can be especially helpful in guiding couples to work through the complexities of maintaining and supporting the relationships that have grown between the parents and children of blended families. Don’t be afraid to try different schedules that you think might work for you. It often takes living with a schedule for a while before you know how well it works. Again, be creative and be flexible!
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