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American families becoming bigger through divorce

Divorce is not the end of a person’s love life. Remarriage and cohabitation with a romantic partner happens frequently after the dissolution of a marriage. This has led to an increase in the average family size. According to a recent University of Massachusetts study, American families have become 66 percent larger in recent years, as second marriages, step-siblings and unmarried couples become the norm.

Approximately 33 percent of American homes are headed by at least one stepparent. Over 30 percent of people over 50 have had more than one marriage, and 40 percent of older Americans with children have stepfamilies.

Larger families can lead to legal complications

While having a larger family can be beneficial, it can also lead to legal complications. For example, as people age, it may be necessary to appoint a guardian over that individual. The relationships between a parent and stepparent can be complicated, and there could be disagreements over to name as guardian.

For parents of minor children, a second marriage or live-in romantic partner can end child support. While stepparents may play the emotional and supportive role of a biological parent, they are not legally that child’s parent until they adopt their stepchild.

Non-legal issues may also arise. Should a stepparent pay for a stepchild’s education? What about spending time over the holidays?

As families expand, proper planning is paramount

There is nothing wrong with larger families, and all family relationships are unique. Still, the rise in extended families means proper planning is a requirement to avoid future legal difficulties. In a divorce, for example, the parties can agree to issues like paying for a child’s college. Planning ahead through estate planning can help reduce conflict over issues like an inheritance or guardianship matters.

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