Dealing with Conflict in a Blended Family

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What do you do if you find yourself in a blended family with stepchildren and half brothers and you’re wondering how to deal with conflict?

Hi, I’m Marie Drake of the Drake Law Firm, and today we’re going to talk a little bit about blended families, because let’s face it, over half the marriages end in divorce and chances are when people remarry, they’re in a blended family with someone else’s children. When two people get married and they’ve been married previously and have children from previous marriages, they come into the relationship just like everyone would with their own habits, their own expectations, their own preferences, their own ways of dealing with money and dealing with children, their own ideas of discipline, and it’s basically a huge breeding ground, just like public elementary school for head lice, for conflict. So I’m going to talk to you today a little bit about how to deal with the conflict that’s going to bubble up. First and foremost, you two should be encouraging open communication not only with one another, but with your new stepchildren and with your own children.

It’s really important. And there are a number of ways you can go about this. You can sit down and have regular family meetings and just hash out whatever the issues are. And that’s a healthy way to do it and should happen anyway. And another thing that you could do is mediation. Mediation isn’t just for divorce. It can be for people who need to really work through some issues, and it can be for, including the emotional issues. And that, of course, can be done as well by a family counselor. But open communication is key and should be basically the thing you do, all the time, if at all possible. The next thing I want to talk about is financial disputes. So a financial dispute within a new marriage or even a marriage that’s been around for a while can definitely strain the relationship.

But there are a lot of issues, particularly in blended families, that can be addressed with something like a post nuptial agreement, which lays out exactly how each person is going to contribute and perhaps even what percentage of their income, and also what happens in the event that they do split up. So we do encourage people to get post nuptial agreements. But, you know, that can also be tough because people think automatically they’re getting divorced when they’re drafting these, and that’s not the truth. We also encourage blended families to address their complex estate planning issues with a professional. And I have a huge network of really good attorneys I can refer people to for that kind of planning. Course, my sister’s at the top of the list with Rocky Mountain Elder Law because she’s awesome, but I also have other people I can refer you to. But think about addressing those issues now and not waiting till the last minute, just get out in front of them. Because often when you talk about this stuff, the actual tension around it goes away. Because again, open communication. The next thing I want to tell you is that don’t be afraid or too proud to seek professional support. Now you can speak to a lawyer about any of these issues, but you can also speak to a mental health professional. There are a lot of mental health professionals that actually specialize in blended families and they can help you resolve these issues, which are often more emotional than legal. And not that I’m turning down work, but I tell people, “What if you went to counseling first before you take any action with an attorney?” And sometimes I send them out the door to do that because I am never going to want someone to start divorce proceedings if they’re not actually ready and if they’re still in love and if they still want to work on it.

I’m going to want the marriage to work, too. And that’s one of our philosophies here. But at any rate, consider a mental health professional. And if you can’t afford that, there are pastors, there are priests, there are imams, there are rabbis, there’s a lot of people who could help. And there’s also things like the Jefferson County mental health place that is free. So consider that and consider doing that before you even seek something drastic like legal help. If you’re wanting to better understand how to deal with conflict in your blended family, seek some professional help, whether it’s legal or mental health, whatever it is, seek some help, get some answers and stay open minded. And here at the Drake Law Firm, we’re happy to answer any questions regarding this and also to direct you to services that could really help your family.


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