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Step-families can thrive during divorce, with the right help

There are holidays for almost every occasion one can think of, in every month of the year. National Stepfamily Day, which takes place in September, has been highlighted by recent advertising campaigns. Families often go through changes, splitting, merging and growing by turns. How can California residents strive to ensure smooth transitions when going through a divorce?

It can be difficult for parents on either side of the split to accept a new partner in the other spouse's life. Many people can -- often mistakenly -- assume that this will engender a struggle for dominance and a need to assert one's authority. It may come as a surprise to those outside of the immediate relationship to realize that the adults involved might find it possible to not only accept the new arrangement, but to actually thrive within it.

A parent who is not threatened by a new partner, and is reassured of his or her own continuing part in the child's life, can help the child avoid the potential problems of having to take sides. Similarly, a step-parent who feels accepted and trusted by the biological counterpart may find that his or her own relationship with the child benefits from the backing and support of the other parent. The benefits of embracing the idea of an extended family model can spread beyond the people immediately involved.

Achieving this level of cooperation may not always run smoothly at first. In California, it can sometimes be helpful for couples to consider using divorce mediation to make sure that the lines of communication are open and that everyone involved is on the same page. A mediator is a neutral third-party who facilitates discussion between a couple and can help them come to agreements over many things, such as parenting schedules and custody arrangements. In addition to easing negotiations, mediation may also help to reduce costs by reducing the time spent in court.

Source: startribune.com, "Happy National Stepfamily Day!", Samara Postuma, Sep. 16, 2014

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