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How does the breakup of a blended family affect stepchildren?

In many situations, “family” means more than shared genetics. Blood may be thicker than water, but the relationships and loyalties you develop may not have anything to do with DNA, even among those you choose to include in your family.

The American family unit is continually evolving, as countless adults care for children who aren’t related to them biologically. If you have stepchildren, you might love them like your own. But if you and your partner divorce, you may be concerned about what kind of effect that might have.

Can you get custody of your stepchildren after your divorce?

No matter your family dynamics or structure, divorce always brings challenges. With previous marriages, shared parenting time with exes and stepparent involvement, your divorce may feel extremely complicated. And that’s OK -- it just means you will need to figure out what works for you.

Naturally, it’s extremely difficult to divide the time you and your ex can spend with your children. But if you worry about losing contact with your stepchildren post-divorce, there are some things that might provide comfort about moving forward with your decision:

  • While you may be divorcing your stepchildren’s biological parent, you gained legal parental rights to the kids when you adopted them. 
  • If you didn’t legally adopt your ex’s children, you may be able to demonstrate to the court that you are, and want to remain, a significant family member for them. Depending on the nature of your relationships with your stepchildren and the length of time you’ve been involved in their lives, a continued relationship could help ease transitions for the children as they work to accept their new normal.
  • If the children are old enough to state their preferences to the court, a judge might consider their willingness to continue a relationship with you while determining parenting time arrangements.

As you and your partner negotiate the many aspects of your divorce, make sure you put the best interests of your children first. 

Your divorce is unique to your situation

No matter how things work out, your situation is unique, and your family is special. Divorce is tough, but you can get through it. As long as your children are protected and loved, it is good to do what works for you and the members of your family – no matter how you’re related.

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