A blended family is a family where at least one parent has children that are not legally or biologically related to the other parent or spouse. Either parent, or both, may have children from previous relationships or marriages and children together.
For example, consider Lucas and Brianna. Lucas has a daughter from a previous relationship, Brianna has two children from a previous marriage, and Lucas and Brianna have a child together. Even if Lucas did not have any other children, he would still be part of a blended family because he would have one biological child and two stepchildren. Lucas and Brianna would still have a blended family if they did not have any children together because they would each have children from previous marriages or relationships.
Anytime one or more “traditional family” is mixed with another, that family is considered to be a blended family.
Other Names for Blended Families
Blended families are also called stepfamilies, reconstituted families, complex families, bonus families, and instafamilies.
All kinds of couples can have blended families, and the parents of a blended family may or may not be married. Children from previous marriages or relationships may be biological or adopted.
What Are the Challenges of Blended Families?
Usually, traditional families become blended families after death or divorce, so the family structure is inherently challenging. Children may have a hard time accepting that their parents are no longer together and an even harder time accepting a new partner and their children. Additionally, new parental figures and stepsiblings can challenge children’s sense of identity. To return to our previous example, Lucas’ daughter would not be the eldest child anymore if one of Brianna’s children was older than her, and she would need to adjust to this new position within the blended family.
Parents in all kinds of relationships may disagree about how to best raise children, but in blended families, these kinds of disagreements can be especially difficult. If Brianna believes in grounding her children, for instance, but Lucas does not, this disagreement could create inconsistencies within the blended home. Brianna’s children may become jealous that Lucas’ daughter never gets grounded.
Legal issues can become complicated, as well, because live-in partners or stepparents cannot make important decisions about their partners’ children and must respect the rights of the other biological parents. To return to Lucas and Brianna once again, Lucas would not be able to enroll Brianna’s children in his daughter’s school without their father’s permission, and Brianna would not be able to make medical decisions about Lucas’ daughter if the family got into a car crash. Sometimes, blended families get around legal issues by adopting one another’s children, but this is not always possible, especially if the other biological parent is involved in their child’s life.
Despite the challenges, many blended families find happiness and success, and children can benefit from having 2 or more parental figures to act as role models and caregivers, new siblings, and a greater appreciation for change and diversity.
Legal Considerations for Blended Families
Before creating a blended family, make sure you do everything you can to protect yourself and your children. For example, you and your new partner can sign a prenuptial agreement before getting married to clarify which resources belong to you and your children and which resources should be dedicated toward your new family. This might be especially important if you or your new partner are receiving child support from previous spouses or partners.
You may also want to consider that 2nd and 3rd marriages have a higher likelihood of ending in divorce, and divorce can be an extremely complex process for blended families.
If you are considering marriage or divorce in a blended family, make sure to talk to an attorney first. Lane & Lane, LLC is dedicated to helping you meet your goals, every step of the way, and we want to hear about your situation during a free consultation.
Our attorneys have over 60 years of experience handling complex family law issues, and as a family firm, we understand how important it is to find a solution that works for you and your family.
For a pragmatic, down-to-earth approach from attorneys who truly care, please call us at (908) 259-6673 or contact us online today.