Blended families, new partners and competing loyalties: the difficulties and what you can do about them
Scott Disick and Sofia Ritchie are the latest celebrity couple to “call it quits” with rumours swirling that it is Scott’s alleged closeness to ex- Kourtney Kardashian and their 3 children to blame.
Separately, Ben Foden was criticised online for failing to see his 2 children whom he shares with ex-wife, Una Healy. The suggestion appeared to be that he was favouring his new wife, Jackie Belanoff Smith, and their new-born daughter over them.
His wife came out in response to say that this was untrue and it is the current pandemic which has meant that Ben is unable to fly and see his children. Inevitably, a number of other parents will be in the same position and the pandemic is putting pressure on families everywhere.
The introduction of new partners and step siblings and the creation of blended families is a potential emotional minefield and even once the dust has settled there can be ongoing issues. For example, how involved should the new partner be, what if they make a decision you disagree with, what is their legal status to make any decision about a child who is not biologically theirs and so on.
What can you do?
Meeting new partners and families
In an ideal world both parents should be “on board” before new partners and step siblings are introduced. If you are the partner who has met somebody else then you should be mindful of the other parent’s feelings. If you are the “other parent” it is important to try and focus on your children and the impact on them and try and put aside your own feelings. It may be that you have valid concerns, for example the relationship is new and/ there have been a number of others but if you are conscious that your own feelings may be clouding the issue the it may be worth considering counselling or other options to work through those.
Where possible it is important that the lines of communication be kept open between parents and anybody else involved in the care of the children.
From the children’s point of view they need a consistent message and should not be made to feel as though they are “in the middle”.
Where there are disagreements then parties should consider ways to work these through, for example, engaging in family mediation.
Legal remedies if you disagree
If there is a dispute about the time a child should be spending with each parent (and their respective new partners and/ or families) and an agreement cannot be reached, then either parent can apply for the court to make a decision. Similarly, either parent can apply for what is known as a “specific issue order” to determine a particular dispute, for example, where a child/ children should go to school or a “prohibited steps order” to prevent something happening, for example, one parent moving with the child or children.
What the court cannot do is adjudicate on the life choices of the parents, for example, they cannot prevent one parent getting re-married or having another baby with a new partner. Practically a court can also not force a parent to see more of their child if they are reluctant, for whatever reason, to do so
What about the new partner and their concerns?
If you are the new partner becoming involved in the child or children’s life you may have your own concerns. For example, it is unlikely you will have parental responsibility for the child or children and therefore you are unable, for example, to authorise medical treatment. In the initial stages of a relationship this may not be important but if you are caring for the child alone regularly then it may become an issue.
If you are married to your new partner it is possible to obtain parental responsibility by agreement if both parents agree. There is specific process for doing this, but it is relatively straight forward. Alternatively, if one parent doesn’t agree then it is also possible to apply to the court to obtain this.
If you are concerned about any of the issues raised above or anything else regarding divorce, financial matters or issues regarding child arrangements, you can contact us via our web chat on our website or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, if you are able to call us then we would be more than happy to discuss matters with you over the telephone on 01625 544650.