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The Parenting Challenges of Blended Families


Parenting post-divorce is not an easy endeavor, and finding a good balancing point with a former spouse or partner takes time, flexibility and patience. When the changing nature of families is taken into account, with more households including relationships that diverge from the traditional notion of the nuclear family, these challenges can increase. Blended families, which includes marrying a person with children from previous relationship, or both spouses bringing children into the family, can create tension-filled dynamics that are fueled by both emotion and the limits of an adult’s authority over a child that is not his/her own. There is also the added dynamic of how this change will impact the child’s relationship with the other biological parent, and coupled together, this situation can lead to explosive conflict and difficulty. From a legal standpoint, exercising parental responsibilities may need to be reassessed to ensure that the legal rights and needs of the family are fully addressed and protected. A discussion of the legal ramifications of creating a blended family, both for the biological and step-parents, as well as strategies for making this transition easier for everyone, will follow below.

Legal Ramifications of Blended Families

Previously divorced parents will have some adjustments to make as they seek to uphold the parenting plan with the other parent, while also working to integrate the new spouse into the family. The terms of the parenting plan should continue to be followed to avoid violating the court order and facing potential loss of parenting responsibilities and time with the child. Understandably, the newly-married parent wants to encourage as much time with the new spouse and his/her children to the fullest possible extent, but the rights and interests of the other parent must be honored. However, this major change may necessitate renegotiating the terms of the parenting time schedule to account for the introduction of new family members. Working with a family law attorney during the negotiation process is important to ensuring any changes will be approved by a court, which should be requested so that the parents know the agreement is enforceable if the plan is violated.

Turning to the role of the step-parent, while this person may serve a vital role in the functioning of a family, from a legal standpoint, they have no legal rights over the child, meaning the he/she does not have the ability to make legal decisions for the child or have rights to see the child if the new marriage ends in divorce. Overcoming this limitation typically requires a step-parent adoption, which is only available if the other parent dies or has his/her parental rights terminated. This process is another issue that is best discussed with a family law attorney to learn what options are available in a specific situation.

Strategies to Bring Blended Families Together

Like any situation involving children, the key to a successful transition is providing the level of communication and support the child needs to feel as comfortable with the change as possible. Blended families typically alter vacation schedules and holiday plans, events the children tend to hold as very important. Thus, children need to be given an opportunity to voice their stress and frustrations with this change, so they have an outlet that should foster better connections with everyone. In addition, many blended families find it useful to engage in mediation, counseling, and/or therapy to help determine what will work best for everyone under the new arrangement, and previous patterns that will no longer serve the family unit. Finally, the support and encouragement of both biological parents for the positive integration of this new structure is critical to the child absorbing it in a healthy manner.

Call a Family Law Attorney

Bringing two families together takes a lot of effort and time, and figuring out how to maintain relationships with other parents and your children is complex. The attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group understand the complexity of parenting issues, and can help you navigate a structure that allows for the integration of the new family, and the preservation of relationships with the other parent of your child. Call the Orlando family law firm at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation to discuss your case.