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Navigating divorce can be tricky for blended families

With high divorce rates, blended families are a reality. Second marriages, particularly those that involve children from a prior relationship, have an even higher rate of divorce. Some outlets report that the rate of failed marriages the second time around is 60 percent or higher. 

When a first marriage ends, there are relatively clear roadmaps for how people should conduct themselves. We reassure the children that they are not responsible for causing the split. But the second time around, this may not be as easy to do.

For example, imagine a couple named John and Sue. When they first meet, John is divorced with three children from his previous marriage. John and Sue marry and go on to have a child of their own. During this time, the half-siblings see each other every other weekend and on the holidays. A few years later, John's marriage with Sue ends in divorce as well. John moves across the country, but both of his ex-wives still live in the same city. The first ex-wife blames Sue for John's move after the divorce and will not allow the children to see each other as a result. Do the half-siblings have a right to see each other? 

If the father in the situation above fails to connect the children, and the first ex-wife is uncooperative, what can the second ex-wife do about it? Unfortunately, not much. When children are related by blood, there is greater entitlement to visitation with the other parent's family, and legal action can be initiated to do so. But when children have no biological or legal connection to the other parent, things can get tricky.

Different expectations and rights after a blended divorce

Generally, the parents control who can access the children after a blended family divorces. In the situation above, if John doesn't want his kids from his first marriage to see his second wife after the divorce, and his first ex-wife agrees, there is little that Sue can do about it. Family members may have to wait until the children turn 18 and decide for themselves. Furthermore, if the children do not want to see the former stepparent, that cannot be forced either.

What should former stepparents do in such situations? Psychologists recommend that, instead of insisting upon visits or phone calls, you should write short, simple letters or send cards to the kids. This is the best way to initiate contact and let the children know you are available to them when they are ready.

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Hecht Family Law
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