If you're getting married to a partner who already has children, you're about to become part of a blended family. Blended families involve step-parents, step-kids, or step-siblings, or all of the above. On the plus side, you aren't alone – blended families are incredibly common these days. According to the U.S. Census, 16% of children live in blended families.
A blended family can be a blessing, with more loving parents to look out for the kids. But merging parenting styles and personalities can also be a challenge, sometimes even leading to legal and custody issues. But with planning and communication, most people can overcome the most common custody complications.
Can You Control the Introduction of New Partners?
While it's a good idea to discuss the introduction of new partners with your ex-spouse, it's important to remember that your co-parent doesn't get to control your life. While you both may want to be careful about introducing new romantic partners simply to avoid upheaval in your child's life, once you decide to remarry, the situation changes. You are entitled to remarry, and your new spouse will be part of your child's life, with or without your co-parent's input.
Do Step-Parents Have Any Legal Say in How I Raise My Child?
Legally, step-parents aren't entitled to make decisions about your child's health, education, or religious upbringing. Depending on how your custody agreement allocates these legal responsibilities between you and your co-parent, you're probably used to making these decisions together. While a blended family situation may lead to more opinions, you and your co-parents are entitled to the final say regarding decisions about your child.
Will a New Marriage Change Our Custody Agreement?
While a new marriage shouldn't change your custody or visitation agreement, one of you may end up asking the court to modify your agreement. If, for example, you want to move to another state for your new spouse's job, you may need the permission of both your co-parent and the court.
When visitation exchanges happen, new spouses may be involved. As a result, it's a good idea to ensure that everyone is cordial and respectful to establish a good relationship. You and your co-parent will sometimes need to discuss arrangements with both each other and a new spouse. If everyone works to keep things friendly, it can go a long way to eliminating future conflicts.
Can a Step-Parent Get Custody of My Child?
North Carolina courts will almost always try to keep children with their parents. However, if you and your co-parent are unable or unwilling to care for your child, a step-parent can ask a court for custody. These situations might include:
- You and your co-parent engaged in behavior that is inconsistent with the protected status of a child. For example, if your child is abused or neglected.
- You and your co-parent can't care for your child.
- A court finds you and your co-parent unfit to have custody.
Introducing a new step-parent and step-children into an already fraught relationship between divorced parents can be challenging. But communication and planning can help overcome any potential custody conflicts in your blended family.
If you're encountering custody conflicts in your blended family, the attorneys at Caulder and Valentine can help. If you live near the Shelby or Gastonia areas of North Carolina, give us a call. We can discuss your options and help you plan for the future.