Put Your Hands Up: Blending and the Law
05 Jun 2017
By Laura, WAF Board Member, and experienced Mom of 4
Over 100 million American people are involved in a blended family relationship to date. 5 million children each year enter blended families. Seventy percent of second marriages with at least one minor child result in divorce. Of those 5 million children this year that are entering a blended family, 3.5 million children will experience another “broken” family. Sound like a LOT of STATS?
WHY does this matter? The relevance of this high percentage of divorce indicates that one possible factor for this high level of failure is that we have fundamental gaps in our society (judicial, cultural, etc.) making it difficult for a family to” blend”. Yes, there are perpetually bad spouses, but let’s be honest, blending families has done be done right, and it is an ART, and it needs to be done RIGHT for success for the children, the marriage, and the adults. Think about it! In a second marriage, the husband and wife are bound together by law. However, the minor children are not. This basic lack of integration within the blended family leads to further disconnects with the minor children (why can’t my blended mom pick me up from school? Why can’t my blended mom take me to the hospital?) Believe it or not…it happens, and the kids are confused as to why someone they trust and love is being disallowed to participate in the functions of a healthy family. Did you know: the basic fundamental parenting activities, such as taking a child to the dentist, doctor, or even picking your child up from school, is not supported/outlined by the current law? The current judicial system does not enable for the family to blend because of this lack of acknowledgement of how blended families work in 2017. Blended families certainly can call themselves a blended family, but unfortunately it is overlooked in the eyes of the law.
Did you know that the non-biological parent can’t legally obtain his or child’s school correspondence unless the custodial parent authorizes information to be released? Did you know that the non-biological parent cannot take his or her child for a routine physical checkup or have any medical oversight unless the biological parent fills out a form in order to do so? These basic, fundamental parenting responsibilities are denied to the non-biological parent prohibiting the ideology of blending. By denying these basic tenants, we are disallowing the opportunity to embody the experience for all family members to blend.
So the question is how do we work to mend this obvious disconnect between law and family? First, the law must eliminate the word “step”. Since the 14th century this word is antiquated, divisive and derogatory. Words matter and society is adaptable to change. Society has demonstrated its ability to change specific words in the example of civil rights. In the 1960’s society described a person as “black” and by the 1990’s society realized the inappropriateness of such a word and changed. We now use the appropriate terminology of “African American” in terms of a person’s origin. Second, the law must advocate essential “rights” for the non-biological parent under whose is the child. Third, the law must educate adults what it means to be in a blended family. Divorce is a significant event in a child’s life and it is essential for the entire family that counseling and education is enforced and provided. If the law mandates education to biological parents at the impetus of divorce, the law can promote the outcome of physiological healing through education/therapy and will enhance the probability of success of a future blended family.
Lawfully implementing new language and responsibilities, and behavioral expectations for non-biological parents enables all family members to integrate and blend to a successful family unit.
As Einstein said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
The current system of disallowing day to day responsibility, nurturing, and caretaking by non- biological parents isn’t working. We have a better way. Stay Tuned!!