Divorce can lead to extended family relationships

The definition of family is changing for people across Rhode Island, especially after an increasing number have had their marriages end in divorce over the past decades. A divorce doesn't mean an end to the growth of a family, however. Instead, remarriage after divorce can bring together stepparents, half-siblings and stepchildren into a more expansive family framework.

Nearly a third of all households headed by an adult under the age of 55 in the United States include at least one stepparent while a third of couples older than age 55 have stepchildren among their adult children, according to research. Families with adult children have grown in size by an average of 66 percent through the inclusion of stepfamily relationships developed after divorce. The research looked at the family connections of both married and unmarried cohabiting couples.

Since 1987, the rate of divorce for Americans over 50 has doubled as an increasing number of older couples get divorced. Almost a third of people over the age of 50 have been married multiple times, and this brings a larger network of stepfamily relationships. Forty percent of people over the age of 50 that have children have stepchildren or another stepparent involved in their blended families. These family systems can be a source of more expansive social, emotional and physical support but can also be a source of tension. Stepparents of young minor children often develop lifelong, close relationships while stepchildren that come into the family as adults living fully independently outside the home may be more likely to develop a friendly relationship that does not extend to a full parent-child bond.

People who are considering divorce, especially those with children, may find the end of their marriage to be a difficult time. However, it can also be the beginning of a new form of family relationships surrounding the children. A family law attorney can provide representation and counsel to people seeking a divorce on all related matters, including child support, child custody and asset division, and advocate to protect his or her client's interests.

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