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Remarriage & Blending Families

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Are you thinking of blending families with your partner? Love for each other is the basis for this beautiful idea yet many people can have a significant list of questions and concerns when approaching this major step. Open communication, realistic expectations, and excellent planning are the keys to success.

"I congratulate my clients when this issue comes up. Since anything significant in your personal life (positive or negative) affects your career, this is a common topic with my executive coaching clients. While there will be some great times to be had, the "Brady Bunch" doesn't exist," says Beth Siegert, CPC, CPRC, ACC, CFAA.

"Overall, to navigate this path, I recommend a more open level of communication than you may be used to and a plan to understand how you will handle various topics as a new couple."

In most blended relationships, the areas needing the most attention typically include the following: parenting styles (or expectations of either partner when one of the partners does not have children), how to handle cohabitation with each other's children, everyday living logistics, financial planning, daily finances, religion or spiritual practices, obligations to other family members outside of the blended family, future large expenses (education and weddings), aging, and inheritances.

"Overall, to navigate this path, I recommend a more open level of communication than you may be used to and a plan to understand how you will handle various topics as a new couple," says Siegert. "As an Executive Coach, I can make suggestions of what topics to pursue versus what topics to adjust to. Flexibility is key. It helps that I have personal experience with blending families." Here are just a few thoughts on these common topics.

Glossary of Terms

Blended family: a family made up of two spouses and their child(ren)from previous marriages or relationships.

Co-parent: the individual from a previous marriage or relationship a spouse co-parents with outside of the current relationship/pending marriage.

Ex: the previous spouse or partner prior to the current relationship/pending marriage.

Parenting Styles: Each adult has their own parenting style. Don't be too surprised to find that you and your partner have different kinds of parenting beliefs/expectations which are at the center of these different parenting styles. "Before blending families, really get to know how they parent," says Siegert. "No one is a perfect parent and we can all learn from each other." Being on the same page when children are at your blended home is key.

It is important to distinguish your blended house rules while recognizing that each ex-spouse or ex-partner (or "ex") is still a part of the parenting of each child. However, when it comes to each person's co-parent, it is advisable that each deal with their own ex.

When children get along, be grateful. When they don't, there should be a firm zero-tolerance policy for meanness or cruelty. Age differences and personality differences between the children need to be taken into account to encourage good relationships and to avoid resentment or lack of balance. Depending on the children's ages, encouraging them to discuss a house rule is bothering them. This will encourage all of the blended family to listen respectfully to each other – this does not mean to “give into the child.”

Neutrality is important when your new spouse is parenting or handling disputes among the children. However, if a safety issue occurs or suspected or actual abuse is an issue, neutrality does not apply in those situations. Child safety is always paramount.

Cohabitation: There are two types of blended family living situations. One is a blended family where one or more of the children are living in the blended home. The other type is where there is a blended family with visitation from one or more children. Individual space for all the children needs to be respected. The family room can take on its own special meaning when visiting children are present and that has to be respected as well.

Additionally, expectations regarding daily tasks need to be understood and organized. Holidays and vacations need to be planned. Finally, the new couple needs to pay attention to their own relationship and prioritize some time together while making plans for childcare that may or may not include older siblings.

Everyday Living Logistics: This area is typically the logistical factor that affects careers. Running a household takes a lot of time. Blending two families into one presents a lot of logistical benefits and challenges. Daily expectations and concerns to iron out and organize include: transportation of children, meal planning and preparation, shopping for food and household goods, all household chores, budgeting for holidays, budgeting for vacations, and incorporating family meetings to discuss family logistics and updates as children get older.

Financial Planning: For a blended family, this can be a complex area and a financial advisor is recommended to help the new couple with this imperative task. Statistics show that different habits in money management and financial difficulties are major causes of divorce. Therefore, it is important to discuss money styles before marriage.

Share past financial problems, failures, current debt, and credit scores. Financial obligations to children and to ex-spouses or ex-partners need to be fully understood (have your attorney examine their divorce agreement) and other state laws to consider if a divorce was filed in another state. Each person should have a true understanding of what each other views as their standard of living.

As a single person, or even a single parent, the way you look at finances is very different from what is expected of you when you are part of a new blended family. You may have to reconsider your financial goals and the timeline in which you wish to achieve them. Depending on how much debt you or your partner have, you may have to rethink your investments and the risks you are willing to take.

Everyday Finances: Another challenge spouses in a blended family may face is joint bank accounts. Now that you are a family, you may want to spend money from a joint account. However, what part of earnings do either of you add to the joint account? Is it a percentage of your income or a specific amount?

A smart tool to employ is a budget: have one and strictly follow it. Common items to include in the budget are: rent/mortgage, auto insurance & other insurances, medical liability, utilities, groceries, entertainment, etc.

Pre-Nups: The pre-nup is no longer just for celebrities. "The pre-nup is gaining popularity for both education debt and medical debt protection," says Allison M. Roberts, Esq., Founder and Mediator at AMR Law. "They are now even more common in second marriages and involve lower levels of income than one might think." A new way of looking at a pre-nup is as a way to protect your spouse (and therefore your blended family) from unintended debt should something happen to you— in addition to protecting your assets should the marriage dissolve.

Interestingly, a pre-nup can include inheritance and property rights of children from a prior relationship. When writing the agreement, the couple can include terms that address these rights for children from a relationship outside of their own.

Religion/Spiritual Practices: Religious or spiritual practices can be very important in the lives of a new spouse and their children. Family obligations and scheduling can be influenced or driven by religious holidays as well. These are matters that need to be openly discussed and may need to be highlighted on the calendar as family time is planned.

Obligations to Other Family Members: As family members age or as we acknowledge the needs of other family members with health concerns, at some point, the blended family's daily life will be affected by caregiving for a more distant family member. What are the obligations and expectations (spoken or unspoken) that each partner has in such a situation? If one partner is the primary caregiver for the family member in question and cannot attend to them, what would be expected then?

Future Large Expenses: Higher education and weddings are large expenses that need to be discussed. Expectations need to be fully realized and considered in the planning of such life events. Going to college or university is expensive, and if you have to pay for it, it might be a good idea to look into that before you decide to have a blended family.

Aging: Where and when will retirement occur? We all will grow older and have health issues at some point. What can be expected? How are we planning for future expenses?

Inheritances: How are assets divided in a blended family? In this situation, two people from different financial backgrounds and with different inheritance plans come together. One person may have more money than the other. One of them is also likely to have more children than the other from their previous relationships.

One of the most common financial challenges blended families face is planning the inheritance. The two most common questions are: What happens to the money when one or both parents are deceased? Will the funds be distributed equally amongst all children?

Blending a family is a major commitment and one that takes a lot of time to organize and plan. An Executive Coach with relevant experience can serve as a guide in this often unchartered territory, be a non-judgmental sounding board, and can help navigate the complexities this new arrangement can have on career development.

Curious about working with Beth Siegert, CPC, CPRC, ACC, CFAA in an Executive Coaching capacity? Click on the button below:

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