Archive for November, 2011

Being A Step-Parent can be very rewarding, but is it always easy?

 Fairy tales would have us believe that stepmothers are always wicked and stepfathers are fairly brutal.  It is very easy to lose sight of how difficult it is for step parents to negotiate a relationship with their step children and many articles are written on step families from a children’s perspective, somehow forgetting that it is also quite a daunting prospect for people to take on other people’s children and the new relationship can bring with it a myriad of difficulties.

Firstly, to become a step parent there will more often than not have been a divorce between your partner and their ex and if not then a separation.  The children who are then part of the new step family bring with them their own feelings about their biological parents which can range from conflicts of loyalty, to open hostility to the newcomer.  Those children are coping with the break up of their family and their parent taking on a new partner.  Often being a step parent can mean that as well as trying to find a way to ‘fit’ with the children, there has to be the ability to tolerate a partners relationship with his or her ex around the children and an ability to cope with the ex-partner’s  envy or hostile feelings to the new partner – the step parent.

That is an enormous amount to take on.  Often the new relationship is punctuated by drama over what the ex is saying or doing with the children and being effectively held to ransom by changed arrangements over contact or holidays.  A new relationship which involves taking on someone else’s children is not just a relationship between two people.  It is a relationship which starts with two people but has to factor in other adults with their own agenda and children who may well not be receptive to a deep wish to have a good relationship.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter how sensitive to others people’s needs a step parent is, whether it’s the ex, doing their level best to make life difficult or the children not wanting to be disloyal to their mother or father, there is a feeling that the price paid for the relationship is high. With the focus mainly on how children can cope with their reconstituted family, I think it is easy to forget how step parents feel in all of this.

Step parents need to find a role within the new family.  Not wanting to usurp the role of the biological parent and take the place in disciplining or decision making, they are left to find a place for themselves outside the couple relationship.  It can be very distressing to be ignored by children or on the receiving end of cold indifference, knowing that in your heart you want to be supportive and sensitive but somehow that is being dismissed by all except the new partner. 

Being a step parent can be, or can become over time, a rewarding and enriching  experience but the huge effort it takes to get there can sometimes be overlooked.

Divorce in the over 60’s

 

Over the weekend, the Daily Mail covered a story on the rise of people over 60 filing for divorce (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2063430/The-growth-silver-separations-Divorce-rate-60s-surges.html). This doesn’t surprise me and I have covered the issue several times recently.

A relationship takes work, and over the course of 35 years or more, it can very easily become overlooked. As the children start to leave home and create their own lives, two things happen: Firstly, envy can creep in. Seeing a child start their adult life at the beginning of a new career, perhaps in a passionate relationship, independent and with their whole life ahead can make you feel your life is over and you are invisible. Secondly, with no children under your roof and perhaps with less or no work, you are left to look at your partner and find that you have left it too long to revive something. Too many years have passed with no connection.

It is ironic, that at the moment that you could actually spend more time together unencumbered by domestic duties, you wish to spend less time because you realise you have nothing to say and that you hardly know your partner. In the bustle of the business of your family life, you forgot that buried in the noise of it all was your relationship. There are now many more divorces of people over 60 than there have ever been. People simply ‘wake up’ after years of running around and find they have fallen out of love. Relationships need nurturing. Whatever path you decide to take will have its hurdles -a divorce being every bit as hard as staying together through the good times and the very bad.

 

What role facebook in divorce?

The article today in the Daily Mail which covers the story of a couple divorcing in Conneticut  gives rise to lots of issues about the role of social media in divorce.  In this case, the couple were ordered to hand over their passwords to their facebook accounts so that evidence of adultery could be found.  The law is different here and whatever the reason cited for divorce, it has no impact on any financial settlement.  The question though, is how often social media is the cause of people finding out about their partners infidelity or just what is happening in their lives.  Twenty years ago, you had to hide behind hedges and behind lampposts in pursuit of an unfaithful partner to have suspicions confirmed.  Now, all it takes is a quick look at a carelessly left mobile, or an email left open on screen or a trawl of facebook.   Is it a more painful way to find out about infidelity?  I think so.  Not only, does the fact of the infidelity come to light but the history of it and the detail of it.  Peering round a hedge and seeing your partner with another woman gives a one frame snapshot.  Reading a litany of emails or facebook exchanges, gives excruciatingly painful detail allowing knowledge of times,  history and depth of feeling between the ex and his or her new partner.  It seems to make the possibility of forgiveness and trying to make the marriage work that much more difficult.  In that case, it definitely does play a role in cementing a separation which might otherwise have been avoided.

Britain is the Divorce Capital of the World….

Following my post on Britain as the Divorce Capital of the World, the whole article is published on the Only Dads and Only Mums websites.   You can read the article here:   

http://www.onlymums.org/index.php?page=news&newsarticle=Coping_with_the_Divorce_process or http://www.onlydads.org/index.php?page=news&newsarticle=Coping_with_the_Divorce_process

Family Justice Review – A blow to Fathers?

 

The Family Justice Review which was published today has rejected calls from campaigners for father’s rights.  Those calls sought for the review to recommend legislation that made it clear that a child should have a meaningful relationship with both parents and that both parents should have equal contact rights.

The fact that the review has failed to do that, does not in my view mean that a child should not have a meaningful relationship with both parents, it means that it is not written in law.  What is statutory is the Children Act which puts the welfare of the child first.  That means that any court, hearing a dispute about where children should live or how much contact they should have with each parent has to look at the children’s needs first.  It is the children’s rights which are being looked at, not the parents.    

However, I completely understand  Families need Fathers and Fathers for Justice responses to this review. They feel that their cause of wanting to have equal rights to their children has been set back.  Fathers have successfully campaigned to put their name on the residence and contact map over the past few years.  What campaigners understandably feel is that a child’s right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents has not been supported by this review and that not to enforce it by statute means that many fathers will lose out when they want to spend more time with their children. 

The fact is that neither parents rights are enshrined in law, only the child’s rights are and that is legislated for by the Court looking at what is in the best interests of the child.  What fathers are saying is that the Courts seem to find in favour of the child spending more time with their mothers than with their fathers and that if a mother really is opposed to contact, then apart from the threat (sometimes carried out) of removing a child from the care of the mother into the care of the father, the father is out of the picture.  Fathers feel that this Review will mean that they will go back to feeling marginalised.

The Review’s reasons for not enshrining in law parents rights is that the Court needs to look at the child’s needs and that is what they do.  The Review also envisages that if there is a right to a meaningful relationship with both parents, then there will be much more litigation as fathers will issue applications for contact or residence of their children quoting just that.  It will also mean that there will be much litigation over what ‘a meaningful relationship actually means.’  The review is seeking to avoid more acrimonious litigation and wants parents to come to their own arrangements.  Whilst that is clearly a good idea, people only resort to going to court when they are desperate.  It is only in those cases that fathers feel that they need some support from the Law in order to play a real part in their children’s lives.