Q & A: Will my plan to blend damage my kids?


Background Information:

Currently separated from my wife for 10 months. We each have our own residences and share time (equally) with our two children A------- (4) and B------- (8) (one week on/off parenting arrangement). I have been in a (new) relationship with a woman (P-------) I have known since high school for approx. 8 months. She unfortunately lives in [another province] at the moment (I am in City XXX). We see each other every 6 weeks, taking turns on who travels. She is a single mom with two children (C------- (girl-13) and D------ (8) of which she has sole custody. Our children have met on several occasions and get along well. P------- and I have decided that she will move to City XXX in July and blend our families. I will purchase (or rent) a home large enough to accommodate the four children with my boys sharing a room (initially to adjust to the new living arrangements) and depending on the time frame, have both 8 year olds eventually share a room. P------ and I have discussed most items regarding schooling, chores, discipline and related. We have established clear ground rules with each other and will have the children be a part of the discussions when the time comes.

Our plan is for P------- to move to City XXX July 1, with her children to follow in mid-August (they will spend the summer with their grandmother in City YYY). We had hoped this would make the transition from a parenting perspective simpler and less stressful for my children. We plan to have her children visit City XXX several times prior to mid-August to prepare for the living arrangements.

My ex is adamantly opposed to the situation and feels that a further "waiting" period should exist as I am "forcing" my children into this situation. She wishes to restrict or reduce the time my children spend with me for a 6 month period (two nights a week and every other weekend) to transition P------ into the kids' lives. P------ has been a single mom for 10 years and has been in a stepfamily situation previously. She is an excellent mom and I have NO concerns that she will be fair and loving to my children.


Is my plan to blend our families unreasonable or unrealistic and or/potentially damaging to my children? From my perspective she is questioning my abilities as a parent to ensure a safe and happy home for my children. She sees this much more damaging than her decision to end our marriage and separate (that statement is about the separation process NOT about her decision-please don't misinterpret that).



Disclaimer: The following reply to your question is based only upon the information you provided. Our comments, suggestions and recommendations might be very different if we were fully aware of all of the circumstances.

The points that follow appear in the order they were made during the course of our discussion. They are as follow:

1. Our compliments: You have done a good deal of discussion and planning and appear to be moving forward in a very thoughtful and considerate way. Our research shows that the more time you and your new partner spend discussing and finalizing issues (especially how you are going to manage each other's kids) before starting the family, the easier things will be for you.

2. A 50 - 50 Custody Split: In the absence of extenuating circumstances, we support equal custody. When custody drops to 30% or less, the child(ren)'s relationship with that parent begins to dwindle. Kids are best served by having a meaningful relationship with both of their biological parents.

3. Suggestion: We suggest that you do not change the 50-50 arrangement in place. In all likelihood, this schedule has become a foundation for the kids already. It gives them a sense that their world isn't spinning out of control. Changing this arrangement will be a major disruption for them. We strongly suspect that the kids will not want to have the schedule changed. Finally, keeping the schedule as it exists eliminates any risk of the change extending to an additional 6 months, then a year, and then 18 months, and etc.

4. Re harming the kids: The research is clear, what harms kids is lingering conflict between the biological parents following the breakdown of the biological family. If the goal is to protect the children from harm from this point forth, the recipe is: 1) set the baggage from the prior relationship aside, 2) don't badmouth the prior spouse, 3) don't try to run your prior spouse's life, and 4) honour your obligation to co-parent the kids to the best of your ability. If you and your prior spouse both follow that recipe, the chances are very good that your children will be healthy and happy.

5. "adamantly opposed": Given the information we have at hand, it is our impression that your prior spouse may be trying to be the "master of two households". In our experience with many hundreds of stepfamilies, this approach never works. If she wanted to retain her input and influence over the way you run your life, it would have made sense for her to remain in a relationship with you. A separation agreement means that you are essentially independent entities and at liberty to lead your own life and make your own decisions.

6. Regarding your adequacy to make decisions that impact your kids: In general, a parent with custody of a child gets to make decisions for that child when the child is in their care. Good parents don't take such a responsibility lightly. If you are a good enough father to have been awarded 50-50 custody of your kids, it is very likely that you are a good enough father to make good decisions for them.



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Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta