What Happens to the Relationship Between Stepchild and Stepparent after a Divorce?

What Happens to the Relationship Between Stepchild and Stepparent after a Divorce?

Blended families have been on a significant rise with the popular trend of many divorcees getting hitched a second and third time. A divorce may be traumatic for all parties, with the stress and possible acrimony related to the splitting of the marital assets and figuring out who gains custody and the parental responsibilities, but children who are involved in the tug of war feel it more acutely. Children who are part of a blended family have different concerns when it comes to the divorce of their parent and their stepparent. Largely, blended families where there is a stepparent could mean that post-divorce, the stepparent could just disappear because, without adoption and other legal or genetic ties, there may be no role for the stepparent at the onset of the divorce.

Study: Which Step-Relationships will Survive a Divorce?

A new study researched and published by the University of Missouri College of Environmental Sciences aimed to determine how to best spot which relationships between stepparent and stepchildren could survive a divorce. The study indicated that there was a two-fold correlation that could affect the outcome of the relationship between stepparent and stepchild.

Factor One: How Stepchild Viewed Stepparent Role During Marriage

The first factor was how the stepchild viewed his/her stepparents during the marriage when their relationship was built as a result of the initial remarriage between the stepparent and parent. If the stepparent was treated as part of the family and took on a parental role with the stepchild, then post-divorce, the stepchild would continue to want to maintain a relationship with the stepparent.

Related Issues: Age of Child, Availability of Parental Figures, and Number of Years of the Marriage

There was also the element of ambiguity of the step-relationship which led to significant confusion about the role not only the stepparent played in the child’s life, but also about the ending of the marriage, whether that stepparent would even have a right, or want to appeal for the right, to stay connected to the child. What also affected the analysis was the age of the child when the stepparent became a member of the family and the number of years of the marriage. A young child, with less exposure to other parental figures, would become more attached to the stepparent, than a teenager who still has a relationship with his/her biological parents and if the remarriage only lasted for a couple years.

Second Factor: The Biological Parent’s Encouragement to Maintain Ties

The second factor that indicated the post-divorce step-relationship was the attitude that the biological parent had toward the stepparent and his/her view about whether there should be a continued relationship between his/her child and the stepparent. Children, according to the study, imitate their parents and the post-divorce relationship is influenced by the parent’s decision of whether to maintain ties. In the study, stepchildren only maintained ties with the former stepparent when the biological parent encouraged it. Also, without legal and biological ties to the stepparent and with children not yet at driving age, the stepchild may rely entirely on his/her parent to help maintain a relationship with the stepparent; a parent may need to help plan the times and visitations with the stepparent and drive the child to and from the visits.

The Three Major Factors Influencing the Outcome of the Step-Relationship

Ultimately the study found that three factors influenced the stepparent/stepchild relationship outcome:

  1. The parent’s reaction to the divorce and the emotional influence that it has on the stepchild
  2. The support and resources provided to the stepchild and the whole relationship between stepchild and stepparent during their time as a blended family
  3. The level of parental encouragement of the stepchild to maintain ties with the stepparent

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in Mount Pleasant, Charleston Area

A remarriage and divorce can have a significant impact (positive and negative) on the child involved. It is important to consider the children involved in the blended family before getting a divorce. An experienced family law attorney at Klok Law Firm LLC can provide guidance on how to approach a divorce when children are involved. Contact Klok Law Firm LLC for a free and confidential consultation.