Jennifer Safian
Divorce and Family Mediator

In my previous article, Blended Families, How to Cope regarding new marriages following a divorce, I talked about many of the practical issues a couple may be faced with on a day-to-day basis when bringing minor children in from previous relationships. I also gave some pointers as to how to deal with some financial issues and responsibilities within the home for all those involved.
Today, I would like to address another important aspect of the blended family, the one around the question of allegiance.
Who comes first? Our new spouse or our children from our previous marriage?
It is a very difficult question and not always an easy one to answer, because “it depends.”
It depends on the urgency of the matter: If it is a health emergency, there should be no hesitation, but
• What happens with the holidays?
• What happens with the money for the household?
• What happens with the choice of destination for a vacation?
I remember the story of Ian and Paulette who came to mediation one January to work through some of these issues.
They had agreed to spend Thanksgiving with Paulette’s 3 children because this was the year that Paulette was supposed to have them. The previous year, the children had been with their father. Ian’s children, however, had been with him the previous year, and this year were with their mother.
Of course, it would be much simpler to have them all on the same year but the former spouses had other commitments on the alternate year – – one of the common glitches that accompany divorces!
A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Ian’s daughter who lived 4 hours away by car, called to invite her father and Paulette, to the first Thanksgiving she and her husband were hosting in their new home.
This placed Ian in an awkward position. He was torn between his wife and his daughter! Ian wanted to please his daughter, especially because this was the first time she was celebrating in her new house. He felt guilty that he would be disappointing her by not going.
But on the other hand, his wife had her children back home and she could not ignore her children to go with him.
This event set off a long and painful discussion regarding who comes first. Ian and Paulette were both very upset with each other for being so “insensitive to the other person’s needs.” In mediation, they tackled the communication issue and figured out ways to better face difficult questions as a couple and as a team.
Do you want to know what happened on that particular Thanksgiving? Well, Ian went to his daughter’s on Thursday and returned home on Friday. Paulette spend Thanksgiving day with her children. They vowed to never again spend a holiday separately.
What could they have done to avoid this drama? Do you have any suggestions?
Jennifer Safian. Divorce and Family Mediator
Divorce and Family Mediation
Upper East Side of Manhattan (NYC)
New York, NY
(212) 472-8626

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