If divorce is not complicated enough, consider a divorce that takes beloved stepchildren out of one’s life. Stepfamilies face all the same challenges that other families do, making the possibility of divorce a reality for many. Navigating the fallout of a divorce that involves stepchildren may be eased with the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney.
What Impacts Views of Stepchildren Toward Former Stepparents?
Naturally, the age of the children and the duration of the marriage will have a major impact on how stepchildren view a stepparent. One study that looked at stepchildren’s attitudes toward their former stepparents found that certain factors had a large impact on those attitudes:
- How family members reacted to the divorce itself;
- Configurations of support and resources during the marriage;
- Biological parent’s attitudes regarding the stepchild/stepparent relationship;
- Attitudes of stepchildren regarding who constitutes family for them.
The idea of kinship is crucial in relationships that continue following a divorce. Children who consider a stepparent as family are much more likely to maintain a relationship with that stepparent into adulthood. Because biological and legal ties do not bind these connections, it is up to the individuals involved to create a climate conducive to healthy relations if it is in the best interests of the children.
Best Interests of the Stepchildren
Some parents may wish to wash their hands of their former spouse altogether and resist allowing, let along promoting, a stepchild/stepparent relationship. It is advised that parents use caution as they make decisions in this area. It is important to remember that the length of the marriage may be but a blip in the adults’ lives, while it represents a large portion of a child’s life. The attachments formed over that time may be deep and meaningful. Facilitating a relationship may be an important gift to a child who is already struggling with the loss of routine and normalcy that once defined life for them. Always, always, consider the well-being of children while proceeding with a divorce!
Stepparents Who are Denied Access to Stepchildren
If you are the brokenhearted stepparent who has been exiled from stepchildren, there are a couple of options you could consider:
- Discuss the circumstances with your attorney to determine if he or she can make a persuasive case for legal access to the kids. In some limited situations, it may be possible;
- Contemplate discussing the situation with the children’s other biological parent. It is possible you may have an ally there who would share custodial visits with you;
- Consider approaching grandparents or other individuals close to your ex who might see the value of your maintaining a relationship with the children. Maybe a gentle nudge from an trusted voice could influence your former spouse to rethink harsh positions.