Successful blended families and stepparent adoption

When a blended family forms, you and your partner begin to forge a new life together with the children from one or both of your previous relationships. The rewards can be tremendous, but there can be challenges as well. With new children comes new rules, new demands and new expectations. If you’re willing to meet those challenges, a blended family can be, well, successfully blended.

Fair warning: the odds are against you. Our country’s divorce stats certainly are sobering. Approximately 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce. The odds of divorce moves to 60 percent for second marriages, unless both partners have kids—then it rises to 70 percent.

Strategies to beat the odds

Here are five strategies you can put into practice today that can help you increase the odds of making your new blended family blend—and avoid another divorce:

  1. Start slow: You don’t have to rush into a relationship with your new stepkids. Be supportive. Be a good listener. Don’t take their negative emotions personally. Also, embrace the time with your children and plan activities with just them.
  2. Be consistent: This is where a parenting plan comes in. Children want clear rules and regular schedules—even between two households. Discipline should fall to the biological parent. Form an alliance with your former spouse to achieve your common goals for the children.
  3. Embrace good conflict: Address differences with respect. Don’t disrespect someone simply because you disagree with them and don’t argue in front of the children.
  4. Be flexible: Your way isn’t the only way. Be open to new ideas from the new family.
  5. Be patient: Good relationships take time to develop. Author Joyce Meyer said, “Patience is not simply the ability to wait—it’s how we behave while we're waiting.”

Stepparent adoption

When you’ve developed a close and nurturing relationship with your stepchild, you may consider adoption to formalize the relationship. In Tennessee, stepparent adoption follows the same process as traditional adoption. However, the biological parent’s parental rights must be terminated before the adoption can proceed. Common grounds for termination of parental rights are:

  • Lack of financial support
  • Child abandonment
  • Sustained lack of contact
  • Abuse or neglectful relationship with the child

Uncontested adoption

In many situations, the biological parent wants to do what’s best for the child. The parent may not be involved in the child’s life and would not want the responsibility of caring for the child should the other parent pass away. For some biological parents, it’s the ceasing of continued child support payments that motivates them to agree to terminate their parental rights.

Contested adoption

Under Tennessee law, grounds for terminating parental rights include a parent’s willful failure to provide monetary support or failure to visit the child for four months or longer before filing a petition for termination.

After the adoption

The process of adoption creates a legal relationship of parent and child between two people who did not have that relationship before the adoption. After the adoption is finalized, an adopted child has all the legal rights as children born to the adoptive parent. The adoptive parent has the same legal rights and responsibilities that a birth parent would have.

The stepparent adoption process requires planning and knowledge of all the legal considerations. An experienced family law attorney can guide you through the process efficiently and professionally to grow your family. As Richard Bach was quoted: The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.

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