Comments by Shannon Pritchard, Family Law Attorney
So you Find yourself Involved with an Ex-Murderer?
(Or How I Became a Paramour/Step-parent, in Multiple Easy Steps.)
You found the woman or man of your dreams, and he/she came with a matched set of lovely children – and the ex-parent as an accessory piece. What now?
If you haven’t been through a divorce or break-up-with-children yourself, there are some things that are vital for you to know. First of all, you, the newcomer, are one of two things in the world of family law. You are either the Paramour (GASP! Well, I never!) or the new step-parent. Neither title is particularly flattering, but there are things you can do to make yourself more appealing in the role.
When parents divorce or break-up, the world they, and their children, were accustomed to is gone. Mom and dad no longer live together, and one or both of them are now dating or even moving in or getting married to someone else. Where kids and parents used to deal with one household, they now have to deal with two. If you are the new paramour or step-parent, you are bound to be stepping into a minefield that can explode in a number of emotional upheavals on a frequent basis. Normal folk will try and figure out a way to make this all better . . .but what IS the best course of action?
Accept something right from the start of one of these situations – if you are the Paramour/Step-parent you are frequently demonized simply because you exist and are involved with Mom or Dad. This can be true even when Mom and Dad have been divorced for a while, so imagine the tensions when Mom and Dad are still in the middle of the divorce.
So what is a helpful Paramour/Step-parent to do? Move away from the wreckage, folks, nothing to see here. Really, all kidding aside, sometimes the only thing a smart person can do is remove him/herself, as much as possible, from altercations between the parent and the child, or the parents themselves. This is no easy thing sometimes, particularly if your new beloved is trying to get you to intervene/help him/her with these relationships.
Paramours and step-parents can be stabilizing forces providing a haven of safety and support for their significant other and the children, if the right attitudes and tools are employed to help smooth that transition. There is a family stabilization course, called “Children In the Middle,”
(www.childreninthemiddle.com) that is frequently required by family courts, which is inexpensive and has a curriculum designed to aid families in transition. Similar tools can be found in your community, or via the internet.
Finally, a thick skin may be the most appealing asset you can bring to the table, current beauty-cream marketing notwithstanding. An alligator skin may not be pretty to look at or soft to the touch, but it is mighty effective at protecting the alligator’s insides.