The Daily Mail today reports on a survey undertaken by Stepdadding.com, which suggests that men who take on the role of step-father are twice as likely to Divorce than a man living with his biological children. According to the report, difficulties arising from and associated with the role of step-dad are said to be a contributing factor in the decision to leave for more than half.
The numerous difficulties which can arise with the introduction of a parent’s new partner has been the subject of discussion on this blog on a number of occasions in the past, and is often a source of real tension between the parents following their Separation. What this report highlights, more unusually, is the impact on the step-parent, rather than on the parents, or their relationships with each other.
Finding the right balance as a step-parent can often be tricky. I have seen many clients where a feeling that a step-parent is either showing too little care and concern for their step-children, or over-stepping boundaries and usurping the role of parent has caused real problems and sometimes a breakdown of contact arrangements.
The survey suggests that discomfort in trying to tread this fine line, and the tension it places upon the relationship with the biological parent is one of the main problems which can lead to the breakdown of a second marriage where Children are involved, along with frustration at not being the boss of their own home, or an unwillingness to cope with out of control children who lack discipline.
Whilst it sounds unromantic, sitting down and addressing practical matters, such as what role a step-parent will play in decision making and discipline is often reported as helping, taking into account the feelings of both parents and where appropriate, the children themselves. It is also important to remember that it is a learning curve and that there is bound to be mistakes along the way, but honest and open communication can help. A number of clients I have had have found Family Mediation useful as a way of airing issues and concerns and reaching an agreement about how the arrangements will work. It is worth remembering that such meetings can also be accommodated within any court proceedings where such matters are an issue and can be a cost effective and less confrontational way of reaching a solution.
By Family Law Solicitor Cara Nuttall