Legal Tips for Blended Families

Family Law - May 25, 2023
A blended family of 7 sitting on the ground for a portrait.

What is a blended family?

When two partners with children of their own marry each other, they create a blended family. Blended families are becoming more and more common in the U.S. While these types of families can be just as stable as any other type of family, they face a unique set of legal challenges. Are you considering marrying someone with a child from a previous relationship? Maybe you have already tied the knot, but you want to get ahead of the legal issues.

We’ve provided answers for some of the most pressing legal concerns you may have about your blended family problems. If you’d like further assistance with your blended family’s legal questions, consider signing up for the LegalShield personal legal plan to get access to consultation and other help for a low monthly fee!

Let’s dive into the basics of blended families!

What legal rights does a stepparent have?

As a stepparent, you love your partner’s children. You want the best for them in life. But you also need to operate under the appropriate laws for your situation. Let’s look at your rights in this scenario:

Follow the rules.

First, it’s important to note that you do not become a stepparent simply by marrying someone who has a child. You must legally adopt that child to obtain rights over them and their welfare.

Know what is and isn’t allowed.

If you have not adopted your stepchild, your abilities are limited in their life. For example, you can’t sign official forms or give medical consent. Only your stepchild’s biological parent can do these things.

Understand your stepparent rights in joint custody.

Again, if you have not adopted your stepchild, you don’t have much say in your partner’s parenting plan with their ex-spouse. Even if or when you do adopt, you still must consider the ex-spouse’s parental rights with your stepchild. You may also need to obtain signed permission from both biological parents before you can have any legal authority in your stepchild’s life.

Remember why you are doing this.

When things get complicated, it’s easy to have a short temper or lose sight of the big picture. But remember that you married your spouse because you love them. You brought their children into your family because you love them too! Stay calm, help your partner, and do what is best for your stepchild and your whole family.

What if you have children from previous relationships?A blended family in a park walking and running together.

Marrying again after divorce is a whole different process than your first marriage was. And if you have kids with your ex-partner, this unlocks an even harder level. Is your head spinning as you try to create a successful blended family with your own children involved? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Keep your priorities straight.

As a parent, you are probably putting your kids first. And that is 100% okay! If you’re re-married, hopefully, your new spouse knows this. But what if your new partner gets offended or resents your devotion to your children? It may be time for a heart-to-heart or even a couple’s therapy session to straighten out your differences. Make sure everyone in your blended family is working together in this delicate situation.

Remember that relationships take time.

Keep in mind that your new spouse may not have legal rights over your kids. This can cause some tension if your partner feels like they have no say in your children’s lives. And even if your spouse has legally adopted your children, it takes a while for new families to bond. Don’t try to force your spouse into connecting with your kids. Give your family members space and time to grow together.

What do you need to know about blended family finances?

You have your own bank account. So does your new spouse. If your blended family is dealing with child support, alimony, or even just basic debts and other finances, things can get complicated fast! Here are a few easy steps you can take to make this easier on your family:

  1. If you haven’t gotten married yet, now is the best time to discuss how you want to split finances.
  2. If you are already married, never fear—you can still work finances out together.
  3. Make sure you are both aware of each other’s spending habits, debts, and payment plans.
  4. Create a budget and stick to it, holding each other and your kids (if involved) accountable.
  5. Consider keeping separate accounts for your biological children, and a joint account for expenses related to your whole family.

How should blended families handle estate planning?

Mixing families means mixing your plans for the future. From what each child will inherit to who must pay taxes after a spouse’s death, blended family estate plans are delicate and detailed. Sit down with your partner and ask these questions:

  • What do you want to do with our separate property items?
  • How should we divvy up inheritances for each other and for our children?
  • Do we want each other, our children, or all involved to have powers of attorney in case one of us becomes dependent?
  • As a stepparent, you are not legally required to leave anything to your stepchildren. But if you want to, how would you like to divide your possessions?

Get experienced legal help to navigate these challenges.Woman using the LegalShield app on her smartphone.

Creating and maintaining a happy blended family takes patience, effort, and great understanding of legal processes and family law. Make it easier on yourself and your loved ones by letting LegalShield’s help. For a small monthly fee that renews automatically, you can access a provider law firm that is dedicated to LegalShield members. You can even access a handy Will questionnaire to help you start the estate planning process! Take advantage of LegalShield’s personal and family plan today and cancel anytime. Have concerns about child custody? Get answers to the seven common child custody questions.

 

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