Divorce Step Parent

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Rights and Responsibilities of Divorce Step Parents

When you decide to proceed in life leaving behind all the memories of your previous marriage and form a blended family with a new partner, you must understand what is expected from you and your new partner. It is not easy to get adjusted to a blended family with new members. You may be new to your partner's children or your partner may be new to your children. Whatever may be the situation, you are sure to face a number of challenges common to a step family. So to become good divorce step parents, you must know the rights and responsibilities of such parents and start planning towards blending the family.

In 2009, it was concluded that about 0.5 million couples (aged more than 65) remarry every year. On an average, each senior person has 2 children. Thus, the result is that approximately 2 million adults become step children every year. Dr. Grace Gabe has stated that a large number of adult children are reluctant to become step-children.

If anyone of the spouses is a divorce step parent, he/ she should be familiar with the rights and responsibilities of such a parent. You should know what the issues that step children face are and how these issues can be solved. We present here a brief overview of all these so that you become a good parent to your step-children.

Responsibilities of Divorce Step Parents

Some important rights of step parents are elaborated below:

  • After December 5, 2005, step parents could attain 'parental responsibility' by means of a court order or by a formal agreement.
  • A parental responsibility order can be enforced till the 18th birthday of the child
  • Another type of order that offers parental responsibility to a step parent is termed as the 'residence order.' This order comprises of the following information:
    • Determines where the child would reside
    • The individual, who is offered this order has the parental responsibility till the child completes 16 years of age
  • If the step parents try to make a formal agreement for obtaining parental responsibility, this agreement must be signed by every person, who has parental responsibility. Frequently, the signatures of the natural parents are essential. Since the birth of the child, if other individuals have obtained parental responsibility then the signature of these individuals is required.
  • After a step parent is allotted parental responsibility, this step parent has the same responsibilities and duties like those of any other person, who has this responsibility (inclusive of natural parents). Some of these responsibilities are as follows:
    • Providing education, residence and clothing to the child
    • Ensuring that the child is not harmed in any condition
    • Endorsing a change in name of the child in certain conditions
    • If the child is under 18, then giving consent for marriage of the child
Problems faced by step-children

When a child has a step parent, several questions prop up in his/her life. The first hurdle is what the child should call his /her step-mom or step-dad. In some families, the first name of each person is preferred. Further, the child feels that the step-parent is not his real 'daddy' or 'mummy'. So, whether it is essential for him/her (i.e. the child) to listen to the step-parent.

Several children think along the following lines - 'The step-parent is an adult, who is taking their care. So, the ideal behavior would be to show the same degree of respect to the step-parent as they show to their natural parents, teacher or coach.'

Some children try to adjust along with their step-parents. However, things just don't work out. The child is bothered with his/her (i.e. the step-parents) life. Some of the hurdles might be as follows.

  • When the child desires to watch a television show, the step-parent is viewing another channel.
  • The step-mom is extracting some of the attention of the child's father.
  • The step-mom might be taking showers in the bathroom for a really long time.

These are examples of some probable conditions. It is universally accepted that children find sharing their parent and their residence with a step-parent a very tough idea. If the step-parent has his/her own children, this toughness is increased multi-fold.

Guide to step-parenting

The first and foremost duty of a step-parent is to give utmost love, care and attention to the step-children so that they can adjust and gradually feel being a part of the blended family.

  • Don't try to make your new family a copy of the previous one. This is a completely different atmosphere with different children having different bend of mind.
  • Don't decide to remarry immediately once the divorce is done. Wait for 1 or 2 year(s) and utilize this time to know the step children, their likes and dislikes and once they start treating you as a friend and not as a stranger, then go for the marriage.
  • There may be some situations where you will find the step children are not willing to give you the love and respect that you expect from them, even when you have treated them with utmost love and care. So try to limit your expectation and don't lose your hope.
  • It is necessary to understand that step children have already suffered the divorce; so they may not be eager to know or give second chances to the new parent. Accordingly you can devise parenting plan with your partner who understands their needs and feelings in a better way.
  • You can arrange frequent family meetings. All the family members must discuss their problems and try amicably to arrive at a consensus.

The beginning of a new life may appear to be challenging for divorce step parents. They should understand that the needs of their children can vary according to their age. Yet they have to take this step to lay the foundation of a happy blended family.

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