If the past holiday season left you feeling confused because of recent changes in your family, you are not alone. Like many in California and across the country, you may be a stepparent in a family with numerous stepparents, stepchildren and half-siblings. Across the country, in about one third of all families with parents under the age of 55, at least one parent is a step.
Naturally, this situation can complicate holidays and special occasions, but it can also create confusion for the everyday matters that arise among families. While divorce and remarriages are redefining families, they are also creating families that are sprawling in size and scope.
The new American family
The past 20 years has seen a drastic increase in divorces and remarriages. Among people over 50, about 30 percent have been married at least twice. Almost half of those in this age bracket have stepchildren.
Some analysts say the increase in size of American families due to the addition of stepchildren has created a family dynamic that is not as closely knit as the image of families in generations past. Some parents are losing touch with their adult children because of the uncertain bond with their stepchildren. While this is certainly not true for all families, and it may not be true for yours, some stepparents are not sure where their responsibilities lie in relation to their stepchildren.
For example, you and your spouse may disagree over how much of your time you should spend with your stepchildren compared to your biological children. You may also have conflicts over your financial responsibilities for your stepchildren, including paying for their share of family vacations and covering the cost of their college educations.
Dealing with family law issues
While a carefully negotiated child custody and support settlement can resolve many of these issues, you will likely still be making day to day decisions that concern the well-being of your stepchildren. Many parents find that, as their stepchildren grow, modifications in a biological parent’s court-ordered support may be necessary, and seeking legal advice can be advantageous if you feel this action is necessary.
On the other hand, you may be like many stepparents who desire to adopt their spouse’s biological children. This is a major step and often requires some difficult legal procedures, including seeking consent from the biological parents. Legal assistance will benefit you in this circumstance.