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5 Steps for Stepparents

15 Mar 2020 3:00 PM | AAML NJ Admin

By Amanda Trigg, Esq. 

In 2020, families come in all shapes and sizes.  Within each generation, there may be multiple combinations of parent/ child relationships that impact how your family functions.   Help your family enjoy each other as much as possible by considering these practical tips.

  1. Be Real. Don’t ignore the potential problems that your family faces if one parent who has children with multiple partners, or one parent has a partner who has children with others.  Be realistic and address the questions about scheduling, rules, and plans that truly impact all of the children.
  2. Be honest with each other.  Learn and work with existing agreements about parenting schedules, a radius clause (which dictates how far parents can move away from each other), the choice of a child’s school district, transportation obligations, and, always, financial obligations. 
  3. Be literal. Get out that paper calendar, or invest in good computer software, to chart out the various parenting time scenarios. Do not risk creating last-minute problems when you realize that the kids’ schedules do not work the way you all expected.  For example, it is almost universally accepted that the children will spend Mother’s Day with their mother and Father’s Day with their father, but that can result in step-siblings never sharing the day amongst themselves unless the parents can be selfless and see a different way to approach these days of cultural significance.
  4. Be Inclusive. Without knowing how all of the adults feel and think about the children’s schedules, you cannot know the full range of options for maximizing everyone’s enjoyment of each other.  Though it may be difficult, consider including the other parents in discussions, for the benefit of all of the children and adults involved., Many parenting plans include broad provisions for attendance at important family functions, but with multiple layers of family involved, you might propose opening the door to promoting broader involvement with all parts of the family.  For example, some written agreements include specific clauses:
Family Events

: The parties will work together for the benefit of the children and be flexible with each other so that the children will not miss family events of either parent unless there is a conflict between two equal family events. In the event of a conflict, when both parties seek to have the children attend a family event, the regular parenting schedule shall control.

5. Be resourceful. Even the most open-minded parents cannot anticipate every scenario and opportunities to be contentious and to disagree will arise. Avoid taking that bait.  If the situation needs professional input, call an experienced family law attorney, consider involving one therapist for all of the children and if necessary, an all else fails, seek a court order that all adults must cooperate or waive his/her right to give input or have the right to raise a parenting time dispute.


Questions? Contact the Family Law Team at Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf, LLP at 201-845-9600. 


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