Determining Boundaries of Step-Parents in Mediation

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County divorce mediators; California divorce mediatorsIf you were given the chance of having to choose a companion for your child post-divorce, which one would you choose, a new adult best friend or a new step-parent? Ideally, most parents would choose the former. Yet, the issue of a step-parent can have its lasting repercussions, primarily because they can plant the foundations of conflict at a time when both the child and the parent are going through the pain of divorce.

What is an over-stepping step-parent?

There is no set formula used to describe what an overstepping step-parent is. The answer lies in the eyes of the co-parent. First up, the influence of a new person may not be welcomed by your ex- spouse, since to them, it would seem like they are being replaced. Yet, sometimes their complaints should be paid attention to.

When you are in Orange County divorce mediation, this topic is likely to come up. Here is what you need to do if such a situation arises and how can you deal with it.

·        Listen to what the other parent says

When your co-parent allays their fear to you, the first thing you should do is talk to them and encourage them to speak up. Remember, the kid is as much yours as it is theirs and their concerns should be taken validly and seriously.  Only when you have the details, will you be able to decide whether their complaint is based on actual grounds or mere insecurity.

·        Make a list of the issues that they have

During your divorce mediation, you should ideally make a list of the things that the other parent is uncomfortable about with regards to your child’s step-parent. A list would help you clearly mark what can be done and what can’t. A list could also contain the bare minimum things the step parent can do. Such as:

  • Attend Parent-Teacher conferences
  • Go to volunteer in your child’s classroom
  • Help the child with their school projects
  • Give their input regarding a decision in the child’s life
  • Coach your child’s sport teams at least once a year or so

·        Correct it if you see fit

The most important thing to understand is that just because the other spouse allayed their fears to you in divorce mediation doesn’t mean you have to act. The decision to act is yours. As long as you have child custody, the child is your responsibility. You should only act if you think that the fears of the other parent are based in fact. If that is the case, you can have a civil discussion with the step-parent and highlight the issues, clearly demarcating what they can and cannot do in relation to the child.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.