After a divorce, moving on can be a very difficult task. One, or perhaps even both, former spouses may find another partner and get remarried. The difficulty here can be in dealing with a stepparent or new spouse of an ex. This can be an especially difficult time for children. After a divorce, children can struggle when one of their parents has a new spouse. They see this new parent as trying to replace the one they still have. It should be made clear to the children, by all adults involved, that stepparent(s) are not replacing biological mothers and fathers.
Stepparents interacting with the children can also be difficult. Relationships between children and a stepparent will develop slowly. It often takes months, or even years, for a child to be comfortable with their new stepparent. And once they do become comfortable with a stepparent, it is not okay for a stepparent to be called “Mom” or “Dad”. Those names should be left for the biological parents. Instead, have the children refer to the stepparent by their first name or step-mom or step-dad.
Disciplining children is a difficult situation for parents, but it is especially hard with a stepparent. Generally, the biological parent should take the lead in disciplining the children. If the biological parent is not there to discipline, then the stepparent should fill in. However, the stepparent should try to be clear that they are disciplining because they are the adult in charge at the time, rather than disciplining because they are the mother or father. All adults involved, the biological parents and the stepparent(s), should talk about what the rules will be at the homes. The rules should be the same at both homes, to avoid confusing the child or putting one set of parents in a more difficult position.
It is very important that after a divorce, the biological parents attempt to work together when raising their children. Putting the past anger behind them can be difficult, but it is best for the children to see their parents working together. If one of the parents is getting remarried, the other should allow the children to be involved in the wedding of the ex-spouse. It is an important time for the children’s mother or father and they should be able to share it with them. Not allowing children to attend because of current placement schedules only causes anger and resentment not only from the ex but possible also from the children.
During a child custody case, it is important for the stepparent to agree to the rules set in the custody agreement. Some stepparents try to convince stepchildren to schedule events during the other parents’ time for custody. This type of interference takes away time the biological parent has with their children. Other times a stepparent may push their current spouse to have the custody agreement modified.
Some ex-spouses attempt to blame the stepparent in a custody case. The ex will often accuse the new stepparent of attempting to undermine the relationship between the children and their biological parent. Because of this, it is important that the stepparent play only a small role in the custody case. As much as a stepparent will want to be there to help their current spouse and stepchildren, the stepparent needs to be able to step back and let the biological parents, their attorneys, and the Court deal with any custody issues. At times focusing on the stepparent is an attempt to distract the Court from the real problems resulting in the need for a change of custody.