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What To Do When… You Become a Blended Family.

What To Do When Legal Chat Podcast... As Seen on the News from Critzer Cardani PC

WTDW Podcast | Episode 44: What To Do When… You Become a Blended Family.

What To Do When… Intro 00:01
Welcome to What To Do When… A podcast from real lawyers with real perspective, where we explore a variety of legal issues and scenarios. Each week we focus on a new topic and discuss what to do when and if any of these legal scenarios ever happened to you or a loved one. With over 40 years of combined legal experience, our hosts offer their unique perspectives and insights on a range of real life legal situations.

Jackie Critzer 0:29

Hey, welcome back. It’s been a while we’re here at Critzer Cardani doing our podcast in Richmond, Virginia. I’m Jackie.

Scott Cardani 0:35

I’m Scott. Jackie, what’s on the docket for today?

Jackie Critzer 0:38
Today – What To Do When… You Become a Blended Family.

Scott Cardani 0:45
Ohhh. What do you mean by blended family?

Jackie Critzer 0:47
Sort of like yours mine and ours maybe? It’s when a husband and wife have children or partners… Excuse me to be more socially correct. When partners who are coming together to either live together or get married, have children from prior marriages. And so it’s blended? Right? You’re you’re bringing more than just yourselves into a new relationship.

Scott Cardani 1:11
Yeah. And marriage can be a really important part of that. Because there’s a stability that the court recognizes when it’s marriage versus when you’re living together. There’s those protections sometimes aren’t as readily available. I’ll say it that way. But that’s just a thought.

Jackie Critzer 1:30
Well, and you know, one question that I think a lot of people want to know, is, okay, my ex husband is now living with a woman and he’s gonna get married to her. And we share physical custody, it can I now get primary physical custody, because he’s living with someone and they have, you know, they have, she has children, he has children, and maybe there’s not as much space as he used to have. Fill in the blank of whatever the reason might be. But can now that he’s in a new relationship and getting married or is married, and in a blended family, and maybe the children, you know, the girl children have to share a room and they didn’t have to before. Is that enough for to change custody? I think I get that question quite a bit.

Scott Cardani 2:14
And what would you answer? Is that material changes? I guess what we’re looking at?

Jackie Critzer 2:18
Well, I would say that that of remarriage is absolutely a material change. But that’s not the only question you have to ask. Right. The second question that goes with that is, and does it then necessitate a change in custody?

Scott Cardani 2:30
And I’m even seeing judges on the, on the remarriage finding that not to be in itself material change? They’re saying it’s definitely a change. But how is it affecting the child? So you’d have to build in that? And I don’t know, I don’t think the judges are too sympathetic that they have to share a room now and those kinds of things. I just don’t I understand that you’re a child, or you may feel like that’s a big deal. But we’re talking about litigation issues, and how the courts can look at that. So sometimes, what we think is a big deal of the court maybe like, maybe not.

Jackie Critzer 3:03
We’re not talking about male children, children and female children sharing rooms. I mean, that shouldn’t be the case, right? You shouldn’t have, in my opinion.

Scott Cardani 3:14
Especially when they’re not related by blood or marriage, and they’ve never been together before. That’s yeah, that’s just a recipe for disaster.

Jackie Critzer 3:20
And just about every scenario, I can think of what it wouldn’t be a situation that would go badly. Or, you know, sometimes you’ve got a younger, let’s say, you know, elementary age, female child, and you’ve got a high school female child. Even – that’s not I mean, it’s maybe uncomfortable more for the high school students than the younger child. But I don’t know that that would necessitate a change in custody, just because they were having to share a room even with a big age disparity.

Scott Cardani 3:47
Yeah. And so what you’re looking for in that, if you’re opposed to it is really good for something that materially affects your child, which is kind of hard to find sometimes. But on the other side is, you know, if you’re entering into a blended family, or you have a blended family, one of the biggest things I think people rub against is parenting styles.

Jackie Critzer 4:08
Oh, for sure. I mean, there’s more than one kind of parenting style.

Scott Cardani 4:12
Is there more than two?

Jackie Critzer 4:16
That isn’t that relationship, whatever relationship it is, we hope it’s just two. Well, what are your thoughts about about parenting style and blended relationships and blended families?

Scott Cardani 4:25
Well, I think you have to take somewhat accounting of where you are as far as the children. So if you’ve got very young children, you can probably mold into something you both agree to, and work it out. I think if the children are a lot older and have been in a parenting style under you for a long time, I think you really have to work with grace and the other parent and try to make your styles not opposed to each other as much as possible. But I think one of the greatest things quite frankly, is what you can learn from the other parent if you’re open both Jackie and I have that situation. So you know if you’re open to there parenting style, at least look at it, you don’t have to necessarily assimilate their whole style. But sure, you can learn a lot that you didn’t see your eyes can be open to things, better ways to do things. And so the trick to me is being humble enough to say, I don’t got all the answers, because nobody does. I don’t care who you are and what you say, but there’s no parent out there that has all the answers. The real question for me always is, are are the children loved? And do they have a consistency in their life? Because those are two things that make healthy kids. You know, I’ve seen parents have very, very, very, very, very, very loose parenting styles, but they’re always consistent in that style. And they really love their kids. And I’ve seen those kids to flourish, as much as parents who have been very strict. And same thing with a lot of love and everything and the kids flourish. So I think sometimes we get caught up in things. But you know, there are there are points that matter. And well, the biggest thing is make sure you have that discussion. And you know, you can say really easy because you’re in love, oh, how do whatever you want to do, you know, but you haven’t even explored it. So I think that’s a piece that depending on how good you are communicating at that point, you may want somebody to sit down with you and walk that through. So you can both really, somebody can push through it a little bit and say, What do you really think about this? And what do you really think about that, you know, for instance, that 14 year old comes home, and he’s been smoking marijuana and you catch him, you know, how you handle that as a family is a big deal. And you know, you know, say it’s our kids, but it’s Jackie’s child, you know, my feeling is I sort of take a little bit of a backseat to that. Obviously, I there for advice and counsel and support and everything like that. But, you know, just depends. But my point is, you have to think about those things, you have to employ those things. And you have to be if you’re gonna get a relationship with somebody who has kids, even if you don’t have any really, you’ve got to be accepting of their style of discipline, their style of communication, their style, all those things. That’s my Porsche going down the road someone else stole, I guess. Anyways, I don’t know if you heard that. But that’s where I’m at. I just think that’s a very important matter to consider.

Jackie Critzer 7:18
I think, too, you know, when you have a blended family. So Scott brought up a really good scenario where you’ve got the, you know, one of your teenage children, you find out is experimenting with marijuana. Let’s just use that as the example because it’s so much more readily available for young people. Whether it’s through their friend’s parents, or somebody at school, wherever it is, let’s just use it as the example. In this picture of a blended family, you can’t ever leave out the other parents. So I’m remarried. My children still have a father who’s very active in their lives, as well as their stepfather, who’s my husband. And if this were going on in my home, of course, my my husband would know about it, because that’s in the home. But he would know about it from a here’s the newsreel, here’s what’s going on. I need to go and call their dad and have a discussion. And then we can talk more about it. I think that having that other parents input is valuable, at least for for my children. And we have a situation where my children, our children go and visit with their dad, every other weekend. It’s not a shared custody situation, but but we treat it and treat each other like it’s a shared custody situation, because I think it’s his right is their dad to know what’s going on whether it’s sports, school, discipline issues. It’s the good news and the bad news. I don’t wait for for him to ask, Hey, how are the kids doing? No, I have them. It’s my obligation, I think my duty to go ahead and share that information. Maybe he doesn’t respond. That’s not his style. He usually says something back. But I know a lot of you are dealing with parents on the other side who don’t respond, who don’t ask questions, who seemingly don’t care what’s going on. Maybe that other parent would say, Yeah, I gave him the marijuana. Right? That that’s probably one of the worst things you can imagine. But I think involving the other biological parent, if they’re in the picture, and if it’s appropriate, right, that that’s important. And that you consider their input when you’re disciplining inside your home as well. I think Scott’s situation is a little different than that. But you know, you got it, you’ve got to understand that blended families aren’t just blending you and your spouse and the children, but that you’ve got other family members outside of just what’s going into your home that you need to consider as well. So when it comes to the parenting styles, you know, Thanks, Scott brought up a good point. Whether it’s routine expectations, is there a bedtime? I don’t care how old the kid is 5 – 15 Is there an expectation that there’s a quiet time in the house? Is there an expectation that people are going to do their chores, they’re going to keep their room clean, keep their bathroom clean parts? dissipating, cleaning up after dinner or making whatever that whatever that know seems sort of menial. But after days and weeks and months of not communicating about those things, they become hot button issues.

Scott Cardani 10:13
Yeah, and I think that’s the key is communication to is the second point I would make is communication and even simple things like, for me, sometimes I have very good communication with all my kids. And sometimes they’ll call me and say, Hey, Dad, I’m going to Jimmy’s, for a couple hours after school. And that’s been my routine for so long, I didn’t have always have somebody to go say, hey, and remembering to do that. Hey, wife, just inform and just informing just to let them know, so they know what’s going on. Maybe they’re making dinner, or maybe they have plans, or maybe you know, but that goes both ways. And it has to be, you just have to think about that. It’s some for some of us, it’s just a change, because we’re used to be more on our own. And you get used to parenting on your own or some of us, it’s the relationship we have with our children, we’re used to just kind of going back and forth and having an open. So when you, for me, sometimes when I’ve communicated something, I don’t think to re communicate it. And that’s really important to try to remember to re-communicate something that’s already been communicated. Because just because you communicate your kid, you don’t want to keep blindsiding your spouse and like, Where’s John? And why he spent the night Jimmy’s right. I had plans to go do this with him. I didn’t know he was doing it, whatever it is, you know. And as Jackie said, whether it’s chores or whatever, those things are important to lay out and have expectations and communicate expectations. That is so huge. I think that’s the biggest thing. So many people think, you know, probably get myself in trouble here. But sometimes I think men and women are different. Sometimes women think somebody should know what they’re thinking and men tend to not want to say what they’re thinking. So it’s the same problem. It’s just a different way of thinking about it. But my point is, you can’t have expectations that are un-communicated, and expect them to be followed, especially in a blended family, you want to disaster quickly. So communication matters very much. And if not, it’s almost the point you want to be over communicated to more than less.

Jackie Critzer 12:19
Find a way to put you know, a chalkboard or a whiteboard or a calendar or something to the event that’s not done the night before, but something that communicates what’s going on oh, I thought I told you about that sporting event, I thought I told you about piano lessons, I thought I told you that I had a work meeting and that you were on deck for transporting you know where they need to go, right? I mean, these things, these things happen, I think important to you know, when you’ve got many of children from both sides, and they have visitation or some sort of shared custody or something that leaves your unit and then comes back. I think that is really an important piece to consider. As far as communication is concerned, you will find yourself in a lot of hot water if you are making decisions with the other parents, not your new spouse, but with the other parent about your parenting time or your old spouse right and not communicating that to your new spouse that that can really create a lot of heartache and heartburn, especially if all the teenage or all the kids have a good relationship. And the plan is you worked it out. So there’s every other week and everybody’s together over the weekend. And everybody’s together, whatever that schedule looks like. It’s really important, especially on parenting schedules to just go again, communicate, communicate what what is going on, even though those children aren’t shared by your new spouse.

Scott Cardani 13:43
Yeah, and there are a lot of apps that can help with that communication. There’s all kinds of parenting apps and things like that, if that helps. Some people aren’t, you know, calendar centric, and, you know, that doesn’t work for them. And that’s okay, that’s where you have to be, like Jackie said, there’s all kinds of ways to communicate, I think one of the things we run into as older kids is our kids work. So you know, we never know who’s gonna be home for dinner or who’s not. And then at some point, you have to realize that you’re going to roll with some flexibility, you know, when it’s that I cannot keep 10 People scheduled, not even two peoples really right in my head, especially when changing weekly and all those things. I probably could do it if I really wanted to be mindful of it, which is a very important thing. But my point is, as in communication in a blended family, sometimes you have to just realize that mistakes are gonna happen. And it’s okay. And there’s no evil purpose under the rug that we’re just trying to keep you out. And so all those things to me are all communication one on one things, but I think a lot of times we don’t think about it when we enter into a blended family. Because, you know, habits of communication, which may have been good in one situation may not be so good in the second and you just have to be, again, humble enough. I use that word a lot, but it’s very important. Humble enough to go, you know what? I need to be mindful of my way of communication? Am I being effective? Am I leaving my spouse, your spouse or significant other out? And can I? How can I do a better job of putting them in the loop?

Jackie Critzer 15:14
You know, I’m gonna put Scott on the spot here. And, Scott, Have you Have you learned anything from your spouse?

Scott Cardani 15:21
Not one thing more than a million things. Now, yeah, I’ve learned a lot. Absolutely. I’ve learned a tremendous amount. I’m very thankful for that. But you know, there are times still, you know, I have some stubborn streaks, I guess, instead of we all you know, narrow things that I believe in. But I think overall, it’s just the learning. Like you said, you learn if you’re willing to, you’ll learn a lot. You know, even their communication style, you might find a little better than yours. And you may need to tweak yours for heaven’s sake. So

Jackie Critzer 15:48
I’ll tell you, my, my husband is really, really good at not elevating. So if you get a teenager with a hot temper, he is so good at just maintaining a level even temperament. And I’m not as hot and I’m, you know, ready to go. And part of that is what we do for a living, right? We can recall conversations over the last five years that people What do you mean, I said that? No, no, this was the conversation. Here’s the context, here’s how it went. And so we that’s our training, right? We’re we’re trained to do that. And sometimes that carries over at least it does for me, it carries over into the family relationships in the family dynamic, too. But I am learning from him. And I’ve learned from him how to just, this isn’t the time to be hot headed. This is the time to maintain a cool, calm disposition and just work through some of that you can be upset, you can be angry, you can feel all the things, but still not lose your cool one, maintain a good conversation. And you’re going to have a better outcome. So that I mean, just by way of example, that’s something that I’ve learned and have grown to admire greatly in what my husband does.

Scott Cardani 16:54
Yeah, absolutely. All right, I think the last thing I think is really, really important in blended families, that probably isn’t really legal. But time matters. Time with your spouse or significant other matters. And when you have a blended family, and you’re doing a lot of things or alot of activities, you’ve got to carve out those times. Like my wife, and I’ve made Monday’s matter. You know, we tried to do a date night every Monday. And sometimes we’re going to a kids practice and taking a walk at the practice while the kids practicing and not watching the kid practice because our time needs to matter. Sure. So those are things you have to figure out. But you need to be intentional about it. Because when you go from one kid, even two kids or two kids to five kids, or three kids to eight kids, or whatever it may be or whenever you ready, whenever you’re ready, looks like schedules of the kids and their activities. And if you don’t prioritize that you will lose it. And then you will be five years down the road or five months down the road and say, What’s your name disconnected? Where do you where do you live? And you know, people can be super creative with that, you know, some people are good about going to bed at nine o’clock and spending two hours every night together. You know, it doesn’t have to be some form formulaic from my perspective, it just needs to be intentional for both parties to know that both parties, you know, it’s not just a one way street. It’s not just me making sure I have time for Jackie it’s Jackie making sure that I’m important, whatever it is sorry. But my point is, that’s it’s so important to have that two way street of intentionality that both of you are on the same page. And that can change, you know, when for a while, you may try early bedtime for a while you may try something else. But you know, sometimes, again, flexibility to me is the key in that, you know, it’s not about the day or the activity, it’s about being together and showing each other that look, I’m missing this child’s game, because you’re that important to me. And we’ve set this up, and I’m not going to change that. So and then, you know, sometimes it’s the other parent say, You know what, it’s okay, we can do this Tuesday night. I’m totally fine with that, you know, right, whatever it may be. And I’m not saying either one’s right or wrong. I’m just saying being flexible, but realizing it’s intentional is such an important thing.

Jackie Critzer 19:14
Oh gosh – I would agree with that. And as the bigger the family, the bigger the blend, the more important I would even say it becomes because I know Scott has a tribe and we have a tribe and we have sports and we have music and we have academic teams and we and now I think we all know a new a new little one home and it can really she’s actually in the office take until she is here visiting today. She can really take a toll on the relationship if you’re not if you’re not truly being intentional about about growing and nurturing the relationship that brought you all together to begin with.

Scott Cardani 19:50
Alright, so what did we learn today?

Jackie Critzer 19:52
Oh gosh, we have we have three main takeaways, right? The first one parenting styles, make sure you talk about them, whether it’s routines, expectations. or chores, whatever that is, make sure you compare parenting styles. And if they’re not compatible, figure it out.

Scott Cardani 20:07
Parenting expectations. And second one would be communication matters. You know, it’s making sure that you’re communicating with everybody in the room, so to speak, and making sure all those doors of communication are open, and everybody knows what’s going on at all times. And that’s an easy one to let slip. Like I said, I think that’s when I slip on a lot sometimes when my older settle comments that I haven’t one of my buddies after work, and you know, I’m going home at that moment or talking to somebody else at that moment, you don’t always think to go home and go, Hey, by the way…

One less for dinner. Yes, something that simple. Yeah, exactly, oh, I didn’t know I would have totally changed the dinner menu, if I knew it was gonna be five instead of six or four, whatever.

Absolutely. Then lastly…

Jackie Critzer 20:48
Time matters. And that just is time with your spouse where you’re making time to nurture that relationship. Despite, you know, the pressures of First of all, you’ve got a new marriage or new relationship that that you’re trying to grow. But you also have these extra pools with with the various schedules and things that you have with the two different groups of children. So making time a priority with your spouse, whatever that looks like, in communicating about that time, and coming together and focusing together. They both mutual, both being intentional, mutually.

Scott Cardani 21:23
Alright, folks – thank you for joining us today.

Jackie Critzer 21:25
Next time. I think a good follow up would be a co-parenting, how when we talk about parenting styles when we talk about these things, co parenting with your new spouse is one thing, right? But co parenting with the spouse that you’re not married to anymore, and how to navigate some of these issues with that parent and the blended family will be coming to you coming to you soon. So thanks for joining us. Be sure and like and subscribe.

Scott Cardani 21:48
Thank you.

Jackie Critzer 21:49

What To Do When… Outro 21:49

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