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The Role of Fathers in Blended Families: Legal Considerations and Challenges

Family law is an area of law that addresses the types of challenges that families may experience, from divorce to child custody and more. Typically, when most people envision a family, their default image is of a married man and woman with a biologically related child—and in reality, this is far from the only possibility.

Blended families are made of step-children, step-parents, half-siblings, and still, a father’s rights are just as important and applicable as in a traditional nuclear family. However, in families of any type, men are often less likely than women to understand their rights as a parent and how those apply during legal action.

We have gathered what you need to know about the role of fathers in blended families, examining legal considerations, diverse family structures, and the support fathers need to create healthy, inclusive family environments.

What Qualifies as a Blended Family?

Some people exist within a blended family without realizing they fall under this classification. A blended family is any family that includes two parents and at least one child that is not the biological offspring of one of those parents.

Blended families may include a biological child of both parents in the new marriage as well as the husband’s or wife’s child from a previous relationship, or both parents may bring their own children into the new marriage together to create a family structure of step-siblings.

Blended families are just as varied and unique as other types of relationship structures, but they may have additional legal challenges—especially for fathers—if conflict arises.

Paternity and Father’s Rights

When marital disputes lead to disagreement, fathers are already at a legal disadvantage. While a mother is always granted the rights due as a mother, fathers often need to go through additional steps to claim their rights by proving paternity.

In some cases, a woman may affirm that a man is her child’s father, but in others, she may refuse to comply and force the father to undergo DNA testing or another form of paternity attestation.

In cases of blended families, this process becomes even more difficult, particularly if the father is the adoptive parent of a step-child to whom he is not biologically related.

Decision-Making, Custody, and Responsibility

sad little girl upset by father leaving embracing dadBecause custody, visitation, and other determinations are made, based in part, on paternity, these aspects can also be impacted by the status of a blended family.

Even in cases in which the parents are continuing in an amicable relationship, children from a previous marriage may be bound by preexisting visitation and custody agreements with the other, divorced parent.

This, in turn, can interfere with the new parent’s authority to make decisions and spend time with their step-child(ren). In cases of blended families that are seeking a divorce, children may follow custody and visitation arrangements from multiple sets of parents.

Determining who has the authority to make decisions, which decisions are theirs to make, and who can see the children are all elements that become more complex in blended families.

Alimony and Child Support

Parents who have divorced before and remarried into a blended family may still be paying alimony or child support to their previous spouse. When planning for the financial future of a blended family, these expenses must be considered with a couple’s goals.

Should the new blended marriage also end in divorce, multiple alimony or child support payments may be applicable for a single spouse depending on the circumstances.

Beneficiaries, Trusts, and Directives

When a person divorces and remarries, they often face significant challenges in reordering their estate and assets. While a traditional family with biologically related heirs enjoys some level of security, and an automatic transfer of assets should something happen to the parents, blended families do not benefit from this simplicity.

back view of foster father taking away upset african american daughter isolated on whiteFor example, if a parent passes away in a biologically related family, absent any designated beneficiaries, the next of kin for the parent is typically their child. However, in blended families, step-children are not necessarily designated as next of kin.

Parents (especially fathers) should reevaluate the terms of any trusts, advanced directives, insurance policies, and other financial arrangements to ensure the contracts reflect their new family structure.

Overcome the Legal Challenges of Blended Families

A father’s rights are often more limited in blended families than they are in traditional family structures with biologically related children. However, this does not mean that fathers should receive unfair treatment during a conflict or divorce.

The attorneys at SIEGELLAW help fathers to defend their rights, regardless of the structure of their family. Contact SIEGELLAW to schedule a consultation.

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