How Divorce is Making U.S. Families… Bigger?
It’s hard enough for people to adjust to a divorce, but when ex-spouses remarry, have children with their new mates, and bring children from their original marriages into the family, major complications can result.
According to a survey analysis by University of Massachusetts Boston Professor Emily Wiemers and others, almost a third of U.S. households headed by adults under age 55 have at least one stepparent, as do couples over age 55 with adult children. These step-relationships are changing the American family. Not only do they increase the size of the extended families created, but the stresses and emotional strain involved in some cases can lead to additional divorces and remarriages.
Divorce, remarriage, blending families, deciding what is best for children, and other family law issues are emotionally charged and life-changing for everyone involved. If you are faced with these issues, it makes sense to consult an experienced family law attorney to avoid making mistakes that can be costly both financially and emotionally.
The seasoned and compassionate Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. always focus on our clients’ needs and feelings, and we work to clarify and resolve the issues they are facing in the most effective and efficient manner. We offer a free consultation to help you find the best solution for your individual situation. Call us today for your free consultation at 630-305-0222 or contact our team online.
Issues with Blended Families
Over the past two decades, the divorce rate has doubled for older Americans, and when divorced individuals remarry, it increases both family size and complexity. According to a recent study at Bowling Green State University, almost 30 percent of people over 50 have been married more than once, and about 40 percent of those who have children are in stepfamilies.
The following are some problems that arise from blended families:
- Obligations to stepkin. Remarried individuals might have to choose how to spend time and resources with biological and step-relatives. Problems arise in situations such as planning vacations, celebrating holidays, paying for college, providing money or time to children from previous and/or current relationships. As families age, there are issues with financial and time obligations to elderly stepparents and/or biological parents?
- Financial burdens. People who remarry have to deal with the costs of their original divorce, new wedding, and setting up a new household. They may have to deal with child support and costs of transporting children from previous marriages, and pay for education and weddings for multiple children.
- Family connections. What happens when stepchildren do not get along with their stepbrothers or stepsisters? How does that affect vacations and holidays? What if antagonistic stepkids have to share the same room? What if parents want to take their biological children somewhere, but not their stepchildren? What if grandparents give gifts and attention only to their biological grandchildren and step-siblings are jealous?
- Emotional strain. Stepparents have the emotional strain of coping with the complexity of the extended stepfamily. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to maladjustment, and girls usually have a harder time than boys, especially if there are jealousy issues with a father’s new wife. Discipline issues bring increased tension, and parents and stepparents who disagree about how to discipline may wind up with kids who pit adults against one another to get their way.
Suggestions to Help
Despite all the potential problems, there are things that blended families can do to help:
- Work together: Even before remarriage, work together to develop a list of values you wish to impart to children, such as responsibility, honesty, and the need to respect each family member. Discuss beliefs on parenting, what you feel are the most important family issues and discipline problems, and what strategies you can use to help. Come up with a list of household rules, such as what kid is responsible for what chores, and how much TV is allowed. At first, the children’s biological parents should take responsibility for enforcing rules whenever possible.
- Take time to be together to bond. Develop routines such as reading together every night before bed, going to the playground, going out for ice cream, playing games and sports.
- Work on your relationships. This includes providing a united front as a new couple and also working on relations with ex-partners. A primary source of children’s problems after a divorce is parents’ expressing negative feelings about their ex or their ex’s new partner, as kids are caught in the middle. Compromise when necessary and give your ex the benefit of the doubt if possible.
- Take some time with your own kids. Help them realize that they’re still special, and allow your partner do the same with their kids, but try to give all of them fair and equal treatment.
- Keep the doors of communication open. Communication is an important necessity in a blended family and helps prevent conflicts. Understand that kids are dealing with a lot of emotion that may at times include hatred and anger and the need to lash out. Encourage them to express their feelings.
- Don’t set overly high expectations or expect yourself to fall in love with your future spouse’s children in a short time, or for your future spouse to love your children. It takes time and getting to know each other for love and bonding to take place. Even if both partners lived together before marriage, the children are likely to respond to the stepparent differently after remarriage.
- Make time for you and your new spouse to be together alone, by either making regular dates or taking trips without the children.
- Consider getting professional help and counseling.
Contact Us For Help
The seasoned Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec understand the stresses that a blended family can bring. We will work with you to ensure that your divorce, remarriage and other family issues can be resolved the best way possible in your individual case.
At Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., we made our reputation one client at a time, and we put every ounce of our ability into every case. There are no ready-made solutions in divorce and family law – every case needs to be considered on its own merit. Our lawyers take the time to delve deeply into the problems and to understand your goals and concerns. Then we develop a legal strategy designed to achieve those objectives and allow you to resolve issues as quickly, fairly, and peacefully as possible.
There is no charge for the first consultation. Delaying can only complicate your situation and make matters worse. Call us today for your free consultation at 630-305-0222 or contact our team online.