The majority of families have shifted from the traditional nuclear family of father, mother and child to a nation in which the majority of families are divorced. Most people move on to remarriage or some other form of living together. The US Bureau of Census indicates that 1,300 step-families are forming every day.
The joining of two parents and their respective children can create various challenges especially since children may be accustomed to different parenting styles or routines. To handle those challenges, the adults may wish to plan to face the challenges by talking with one another and their children about the differences in parenting styles before the remarriage and how to handle any conflicts in a positive manner.
There are also outside resources available for the blended family. There are thousands of books, online websites, and blogs containing great advice for the blended family. Some families may benefit from family counseling both before the remarriage and after the remarriage. This counseling may help to ease the tensions that arise in newly blended families.
In the creation of this new family, there may be ex-spouses or significant others. It is important to not assume that the ex-spouse or significant other is against the union of this new blended family. Like it or not, the ex will be part of the family.
There may be court orders dictating holidays, vacations, and the overall routine of the new family. This can create tension in some households; however, the court orders are the “default order.” This means that the adults can compromise the schedule if both parties agree to deviate from the order. If there is a dispute between the parties about the custody schedule, the courts will enforce the order entered by the court.
If tensions develop between the adults, there are consultants available such as counselors, therapists, and mediators available to help resolve the differences between the parties. It is best to try to utilize those resources before returning to court.
Modifying the custody order may not be an option. The order regarding child custody is not easily modified, especially, if there is an established custodial environment. If there is a change in circumstances, the court may modify the custody order; however, everyday changes such as a remarriage is not a basis to change the custody order.
Life changes can be exciting. The challenges of a blended marriage can be minimized with proper planning, patience, communication, and negotiation.
Torree J. Breen is the chair of the Family Law Practice Group and is a member of the firm’s Litigation Group. She also serves as Secretary on the firm’s Board of Directors. Ms. Breen specializes in family law, divorce, child custody disputes, no-fault litigation, insurance coverage, and handicapped accessible housing coverage. In 2016, Ms. Breen was awarded a Regional Leadership Award by the Women’s Lawyers Association of Michigan for her outstanding legal, leadership and mentoring skills in the community. Ms. Breen was selected as one of the Top Ten Family Law Attorneys in Michigan in 2014 and 2015 by the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys (NAFLA). She was recognized as being among the Top Ten Family Law Attorneys as selected by The American Institute of Family Law Attorneys (AIFLA) for 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Ms. Breen has received a Certificate of Completion in the area of Family Law issued by the Institute of Continuing Legal Education and the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan.