Blended Families, Step-Parenting and Divorce
Disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only and are not to be considered a substitute for professional legal advice or a consultation with a lawyer.
1. Family Law Tip of the Week
If you have hired an attorney for full representation (not limited scope representation), don’t put limits on what your attorney can and cannot do. You hired your attorney to do the heavy lifting in your case. Your attorney has an education, passed the bar exam and has probably handled a few more cases than you have. Trust that person to know how to do the job.
If you can’t trust your attorney, you’ve hired the wrong person.
If money is a concern (and the reason for you wanting to limit your attorney’s work), have that conversation with your lawyer at the very beginning of the case and come up with a case strategy and plan for resolution.
2. Blended Families, Step-Parenting and Divorce with Carolina Drake Albano
Carolina Drake Albano is an expert on blended families. Between her and her husband, they have full custody of 5 children; Carolina has 3 kids from a prior marriage (2 boys and 1 girl), and her husband has 2 kids (both girls). During today’s episode of The Family Law Insider, Carolina talks with us about the issues that arise for blended families and possible ways to deal with those issues.
When Carolina and her husband were dating, when they thought they were going to take things to the “next level,” she picked up a book called “Lies at the Altar”; she really wanted to go into this marriage with her eyes fully open (for the sake of her family). Also, as a precautionary measure, Carolina and her husband went through couples counseling pre-engagement and pre-marriage. This counseling helped them talk through issues about shared parenting in a “safe” place.
Carolina and her husband have different parenting styles. For example, education is very important to Carolina. Also, because she comes from a Hispanic background, frequent extended family time is very important to her. In contrast, her husband, Jonathan, has a little bit of a different take on extended family time.
Addressing these differences prior to blending their families (through marriage) has helped Carolina and her husband in working through the challenges that have arisen in the course of their relationship. Another thing that has helped is giving their blended children a blended place to belong: The “Al-Drako” household…
Giving the Children a Place to Belong
Carolina feels like kids need a place where they can belong. To help with this, her family has regular family meetings, schedules fun activities, and shares a Family Mission Statement. Carolina and her husband also have a Marriage Mission Statement which reminds them why they are together and why it’s better to be married than not be married. (When you’ve been through a divorce, it is easy to come up with reasons why you shouldn’t be married.)
During one family meeting Carolina, her husband and their children came up with a mindmap, complete with a flip chart, reminding them of who they are. It is very powerful for young children to see something like this so they can feel they are a part of something bigger.
Carolina believes it is important for parents of a blended household to be on the same page about the kids. She thinks there should be quality (1-1) time with your own kids, as well as with your step-children. This is especially important in the beginning of a new relationship to establish trust and bonding.
Disciplining the Step-Kids and Working with Your Partner’s Ex to Co-Parent Your Stepchildren
In Carolina’s own family, her stepchildren know the rules and the expectations of the household. If those rules are compromised, Carolina addresses the breaking of the rules in line with the consequences that have been set up. There has been at least one situation in which Carolina had to connect with her stepchildren’s mom to talk about an issue that arose with one of her step-daughters.
Communication with the ex is important for blended families. The children benefit from seeing a positive, respectful relationship between the parent and the stepparent. Above all of that, however, Carolina wants to be happy and to have a good relationship with her husband. As a result, letting go and knowing what can be controlled and can’t ultimately gives her that happiness.
There are many situations with exes that are frustrating and uncomfortable. For example, in situations where the kids are supposed to be picked up by the ex, but the ex is routinely late (or doesn’t show), Carolina sets up contingency plans, expectations and rules. She then follows through with them.
In Carolina’s family, they have a rule about not having secrets. In her mind, this addresses the children’s safety. The last thing Carolina wants for any of the kids in her life is for them to feel as though they have no one to turn to in times of distress. When kids are allowed to keep secrets, that puts them in a position of feeling like they are running the show. That is not good for anyone in the household!
3. Thoughts From the Life Coach
Today, James talks to us about the thoughts we choose everyday.