A common goal good family law attorneys seek to reach with any divorce or end of other parent-child relationship, as well as the judges who manage these cases, is to prepare their clients to avoid future hot-button issues. Where divorced couples have children, a new step-brother or sister or half-sibling can cause instability in subtle ways that may lead the parents back to court and undo the healing that comes with the closure from divorce. This blog post highlights three of the most common such dynamics.
The first is where the new parental unit on one or both sides of the equation treat the children differently—or favors a natural, mutual child over step-child or half-sibling. Ultimately, no matter how subtle, this can have a detrimental impact on the child in his or own relationships at the time or in the future or cause unreasonable responses by the child as a coping mechanism. A well trained therapist may be able to share insight into how the parents and children are doing, or at a minimum, avoid projection leading the parents back to court.
Secondly, relegation of discipline to a step parent may lead to think the other parent does not care about the actual or perceived differences. New couples should strive to be equal disciplinarians and equally share these responsibilities. In doing so, the child should come to see the new parent as a “bonus” parent and source of stability, implementing the best interest standard and leading to a well rounded adult.
Finally, divorced couples themselves have loss and trauma that is sometimes only minimized by moving on at some point with a new relationship. However, the child may not be at the same stage of recovery from the divorce. Introducing new significant others in a child’s life should be take with care and time not abruptly or in too slow a fashion either as children are key observers and know when a parent has and is changing to a new relationship.
This may mean family (both and or individually) counseling or therapy is needed post-divorce at different flashpoints (remarriage, birth of a new child, and the like) for these life transitions to be viewed in healthy and meaningful way, not as a negative experience event of dread. Doing so will help accomplish what every parent wants for his or her children—well balanced adults free of conflict (and litigation).
This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handled all forms of domestic relationships through the State. This is not a solicitation for specific legal services or legal advice. It is best thought of as an advertisement.