If your second marriage ends in divorce, and you have children together from that marriage, you may agree to share custody of the kids. But what happens if your second ex-spouse wants to share the custody of the children from your previous marriage? If you allowed your second spouse to adopt or legally claim your previous marriage's children, he or she may have the right to sue for shared custody. Although this can potentially get ugly, you can compromise with your new ex-spouse regarding the custody of his or her stepkids. Here's what you can do to make the custody battle a win-win for everyone involved, including your children.
Seek Family Counseling
Although you and your second spouse no longer share the home as a family unit, you can still benefit from family counseling. Family counseling gives you a chance to talk about your second ex-spouse's fight for shared custody of your previous marriage's kids in a calm and impartial environment. One of the things you may want to consider is how your ex feels about your children, as well as how your kids feel about him or her.
If the ex-spouse loves and respects his or her stepchildren, he or she may find it difficult to leave them behind when he or she moves forward with life. Your first-marriage's children may feel the same, especially if their step-parent invested time, love and financial support into their lives.
Before you become angry and withdrawn, take all of the this into consideration during family counseling. In past studies, children of second divorces often experience emotional problems due to the separation of their parents and stepparents. Although you may not notice it at first, your previous marriage's kids may react negatively to losing their stepparent by:
- Failing in school
- Fighting with other children in school, on the playground or in the community
- Disrespecting other adults because they feel abandoned, depressed or discouraged
These negative effects on your kids can create a lifetime list of emotional, personal and physical ailments. Though it doesn't happen to every child of first and second divorces, your kids may seek drugs, alcohol or promiscuous behavior to cope with their problems. In addition, your second marriage's kids may feel the negative effects of your divorce.
Open the Lines of Communication With All of Your Kids
Your family counselor may ask the kids of your second marriage to come forward and talk about the divorce and custody battle. The children of your second marriage may have a bigger voice in your custody case than you think.
Over 60 percent of second-time marriages end in the separation of the family unit. Most of the these marriages involve children who were born during the marriage. Your kids with your second spouse may resent or blame you for their other parent's heartache over losing his or her stepkids. Keep in mind that this doesn't happen to every family, but there's a possibility it may happen to yours.
You can do something proactive in counseling to ease the transition from a family unit to living apart. For instance:
- Establish a common ground with your ex: Instead of dictating when your ex sees the kids, establish a workable visitation schedule with him or her. Your family counselor can consult with your divorce attorney about making the schedule legal.
- Create a calm environment: Use family counseling as way to develop a calm, relaxing environment for all of your kids. If your kids see that you're willing to share custody with your ex, they may feel better about the divorce and you.
- Communicate your fears: Discuss your fears of sharing custody of your previous marriage's kid with the counselor and your ex-spouse. If you're afraid that the ex will take your kids away, say so during counseling. It may help your ex-spouse understand why you feel uncomfortable about sharing custody in the first place.
Try to schedule counseling for as long as you and your ex can do so. It may benefit your kids if you do.
In addition to counseling, your divorce lawyer can help you overcome your custody problems by working with you and your ex. If you need additional help or information, contact your attorney today.