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How to Be a Stepparent – Legally and Emotionally Because divorce is so common, having a stepparent or becoming one has also become less of a rarity over time. Children whose parents divorce and remarry at a young age often see this as their norm. Because they grew with it, there is nothing outside of the ordinary about having more parental figures than just the people who are biologically related to you. This is not the case with children or teens whose parents get divorced when they are old enough to remember a life when their parents were married. A stepparent can seem like a foreign concept. The emotional transition can be just as difficult, if not more, as the legal process to becoming an “official” parent through adoption.

What Does the Legal Process Look Like?

An individual is considered a child’s “stepparent” once they marry the child’s biological parent. However, in the eyes of the court, this person has no legal rights with the child. Becoming a legal guardian of a child as a stepparent can be difficult. A child can only have two legal guardians, thus the other biological parent must give up their legal rights in order for the child to gain a new legal guardian. Stepparent adoptions are most common when the other biological parent has passed away. If this is the case, the only permission needed is the stepparent’s spouse. From there, the process is similar to other adoptions. Legal documents must be completed, interviews conducted, and a decision made about whether or not the stepparent is fit to adopt the child.

How Can I Be a Good Stepparent?

Taking on the responsibility of a stepparent is no easy task. Children or teens are typically resistant to the change at first. To them, you can appear to be taking the place of their deceased parent or overstepping your bounds. The following are tips on how to ease into the stepparent role:

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Lombard family law attorneyAmerica is a nation built on second chances. Consider, for a moment, the number of high-profile incidents or embarrassments involving celebrities or public figures, and how many have gone on to even greater success and fame afterward. For many, love and marriage is not terribly different. Despite a failed first marriage, more couples than ever are willing to walk down the aisle again in the hopes of finding the permanent happiness that has, so far, eluded them. Remarriage, however, can be extremely challenging, as many couples beginning second or third marriages are bringing with them children from previous relationships. Finding the right balance between parent and friend is often difficult for new stepparents, but there are some things you should keep in mind to make the transition a little more comfortable for everyone involved.

Be Prepared

As you fell in love with your new spouse, you knew that he or she already had children. Thus, the process of becoming a healthy blended family probably began long before thoughts of marriage ever crossed your mind. During the dating process, it can be very easy to try to ignore your partner’s children and the potential impact on your relationship, but doing so is not very conducive to a future together. It is important, however, to start slow and not to impose yourself on an existing family dynamic in such a way that will be overly upsetting. Understand that you will probably feel like something of an outsider for a little while, because, in reality, that is just what you are. Over time, though, you will probably feel more included and more a part of the family than you ever thought possible.

Be Respectful

Whether you have children of your own or not, you need to keep in mind that every stepparent’s relationship with their stepchildren is different, and may even vary from child to child. For example, your spouse’s older child may have taken to you immediately, becoming affectionate and loving without much effort, while a younger child may be more stand-offish and need additional time to adjust. Neither reaction is necessarily right or wrong, but as long as it is honest, you should be understanding and respectful. If a child wants space, allow him or her to have it; if he or she wants love and support from you, offer it. A long-term future together can only be realistic if everyone remains open and truthful about their comfort and feelings.

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Posted on in Family Law

Lombard family law attorneysThe landscape of families in America is changing. The days of “Leave it to Beaver”-style nuclear families as the majority are largely behind us. Today, American families often include stepparents, stepsiblings, half-siblings, adopted children, single parents, or same-sex parents. Compared to previous generations, many more children are being raised by guardians or grandparents as well. 

A Look Inside the Numbers

A study from the University of Maryland’s Philip N. Cohen puts these changes into statistical perspective. For example, a household consisting of married parents in which the father worked outside of the home and the mother served as a homemaker accounted for 60 percent of families in 1960. Another 18 percent of families included married parents who both worked.

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Surviving the Holidays as a Blended Family Although many strive for a personal rendition of the idyllic Norman Rockwell holiday when the winter season comes, those facing the challenges of a blended family may only revisit feelings of loss, sadness and even anger, often emotions associated with a recent divorce or remarriage.

Noted professionals offer numerous suggestions to ease the tension between blended families during the holiday season.

Fran C. Dickson, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Communication at Eastern Kentucky University and featured contributor to Communications Currents, a publication of the National Communication Association, offers the following advice to blended families as means for exhibiting better behaviors throughout the holiday season.

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Posted on in Divorce

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act is the legal basis for child custody proceedings in Illinois. The Act has statutes on child custody matters in case of dissolution or invalidation of marriage, as well as for governing a case of a parent petitioning for custody in the county where they are permanent residents. The IMDMA also talks about matters that might not be as common in courtrooms, and we will look at one of these matters.

The right of a stepparent to file a petition for custody under certain conditions is part of the IMDMA. Since this is not the most common arrangement, there are conditions for these proceedings. The conditions list all of the following:

- the child is at least 12 years old

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