Step-Parents and Custody Fights

For those of you reading my blog for the first time, I am a divorce and family law attorney who is divorced, has children, has remarried, and has another child in my current, and final marriage. Confused? Don’t be. I often write from the perspective of a Dad who has children for whom I have a support and visitation order. I pay child support. I go to exchanges for visitation. I even have to pay my own attorney when my ex-wife and I can’t resolve differences over what it means to have joint legal custody.

That being said, I’ve been inspired by recent events to write about what I’ve experienced with regard to how my wife, my boys’ step-mother, experiences the conflicts I have with my ex over custody and parental rights. Without airing all of the details, suffice it to say that, in the last six months, I reached a point at which I had to file a custody action against my ex-wife. I disagreed with her on several issues and, having no common ground, we had to get the lawyers involved again.

My wife has been step-mother to my boys for seven years now, since they were 8 and 6 years old, respectively. She knows them well, and vice-versa. My wife and my ex-wife do not speak. Over the years, we’ve reached a point at which contact between the two regularly resulted in flare ups in hostility, so we just don’t do it anymore. However, my wife is a great historian. She can recall events, details, and timelines that I can’t, so when it was time to discuss my case with my attorney, I included her on the call.

As an aside, I note here that the attorney-client privilege does not extend to conversations with attorneys when step-parents are present. However, once I give the warning, if one of my clients wants a step-parent to be in on the action and part of the decision-making process, I always oblige. Here’s why: in many homes, like mine, the step-parent must take an active role with the children in order for the family to be successful. Step-parents who are involved in the lives of their step-children must be involved in the communication between the former spouses, and, to some extent, between the parent and his/her attorney. Here’s a good read on step-parents, parents, children, and boundaries:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-deloach/parents-stepparents-where_b_4653221.html

Ultimately, I have to make the hard decisions about my children. But I can’t make those decisions in a vacuum. The fact that my wife did not birth my boys does not preclude¬†her from being a vital part of the decision-making process, just as her engagement with the children is a vital part of making our blended family work.

If you are a parent, or a step-parent dealing with issues of child custody, visitation, or support, I can help you with those issues while including the step-parent in the process. Email me at ron@mcbalylaw.com, or call me at (251)445-0891. I will help your blended family find solutions.