As more and more divorced couples remarry, something I am hearing from divorced dads that we’ve represented in their divorce is that conflicts arise between them, their ex and her new spouse or partner, and children from the father’s first marriage.
More often than not, the problems usually revolve around schooling. “My ex’s new husband keeps inserting himself in my kid’s school and I don’t like it” is a common complaint along with “How do I deal with my new wife’s children’s schooling?”
This also comes up frequently at our support group for divorcing men and fathers.
The reality is that a stepdad plays a big role in the lives of their new “InstaFamily.”
Whether the birth father likes it or not, you will be spending time with their kids. Under the best of circumstances, everybody will be supportive of the new relationship. Yet the fact is that there will be times when you as a stepdad might receive some backlash – especially when it involves the child’s education.
Avoiding Bad Situations for Fathers and Stepfathers in New Jersey
It is not uncommon for a stepdad to want to help children whether it’s with mastering a new skill, tackling schoolwork or attending an afterschool event such as a play or a game. Each can become problematic.
Helping a stepchild with their homework
Few birth fathers will object to you helping their child who is struggling with a math assignment or history chapter if they were your strong suits when you were at school. The real issue is how your stepchild will react. Many don’t like feeling as if they are under your authority because, whether they realize it or not, it’s possible that in their mind you are trying to replace their “real” dad.
It is best to ease into the situation. Begin by asking if they’d like some help. Don’t force your assistance on the youngster and don’t take it personally if they turn you down.
A good way to help your stepchild is to let both them and your new partner or spouse know of your own academic strengths, and their mother can ease the transition by saying something such as “Let’s ask your stepdad if he has any ideas.” Often, all it takes is a bit of encouragement from their biological mother to have your help accepted.
Attending Afterschool Activities
If your stepson plays baseball after school or the stepdaughter is in a dance line and you want to be supportive, it’s only natural that you would want to attend their activities. But this is upsetting for many birth fathers and they might turn it into a major confrontation.
The children do not want to see their dad and stepdad arguing in the stands or the audience. If you are going to attend an afterschool activity of a stepchild, avoid the birth father. Find a seat that’s as far out of view of the natural parent as possible because out of sight truly can be out of mind in a good way.
Remember that you also have the option of not attending if your stepchild won’t be too upset at not having you there. It will vary from child to child, and asking them what they’d like goes a long way in building you up in their mind.
Stepdads Attending Parent-Teacher Conferences
For every child and their biological parents, a parent-teacher conference is an important part of the school year. It is a good way to find out what is happening with the children. There’s always a debate as to whether or not stepdads should attend the meeting.
There are a couple of ways to handle this for a divorced father in New Jersey. First, discuss the issue early on with their mother. Ask if it is alright for you to attend and accept the reality that you may face some backlash from the father. Second, accept that the children’s natural father may not want you to attend the session. You can always get an update from their mother afterward.
Don’t ignore the wishes of the ex
Your new spouse needs to co-parent with their ex. The more understanding you are, the easier it will be for the entire family. If you have concerns about your stepchildren’s health, wellness or safety because of the ex’s behavior, talk about it with your new spouse. But if the differences are because you parent differently, step back and remember that you do not need to control everything.
Don’t be a troublesome birth parent for your ex
Keep all of these suggestions in mind when it comes to dealing with your own children if your ex has remarried.
If you or a father you know is having trouble with the ex-spouse on any of these issues and it is interfering with your child custody and visitation rights, feel free to call me or speak with any of our family law attorneys for men and fathers in New Jersey. Reach us at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.