What happens to your relationship with your step-children after your divorce from their parent? This is a hard question to answer because the lines are so blurry. Mediation can help.
If step-children have lived with you during your marriage to their parent, you have likely developed a close relationship with them, and perhaps they feel even closer to you than to their natural parent. This is not unusual, especially when there’s been a lot of conflict between the natural parents. Or, you might be the only mom or dad they know.
Blended families may also include children that the two of you have had together. These children consider your step-children to be their brothers and sisters, and often have a strong bond with them.
If you are a blended family experiencing separation or divorce, and there has been a good bond between step-parent and step-children, here are some questions to consider in your parenting plan:
o What will parenting time look like?
o How will this work when the step-children also have established schedules with both natural parents?
o If there are also children from this marriage, how will you ensure that they also get to spend time with the step-children?
o If there are step-children on both sides, do they have a bond with each other that would be beneficial to maintain?
While the courts are pretty clear about establishing parenting plans for children of the marriage, they can vary widely when asked to adopt a plan that includes step-children. The courts are starting to accept the concept that the step-parent can have as deep a psychological bond as a natural parent. And while court-ordered parenting plans involving step-children are appearing more frequently, it is safer to work out your own agreement than leave these important issues up to the unpredictability of the courts.
Mediation is especially helpful in helping couples work through the complexities of maintaining and supporting the relationships that have grown between the parents and children of blended families. In mediation, you have the luxury of trying out many different kinds of schedules that might work for you. And the mediator will help you explore more options when you get stuck.
Creativity is the key. Just as creativity made your blended family work in the first place, creativity can help your blended families ease the pains of separation and divorce.