Child custody and shared parenting are often primary concerns for mothers and fathers in Pennsylvania reaching the end of their marriages. However, just as divorce can be a real worry for familial relationships, it can also be a conduit for expanded and extended family relationships through the involvement of blended family relationships. As divorce has become more common, particularly among older Americans, family structures have also become more complex.

People above the age of 50 have increasingly made the decision to divorce; even as overall divorce rates have declined since the late 1980s, divorces among this sector have continued to grow. This is reflected in family structure and composition as one-third of couples over 55 whose families include adult children also include stepchildren. These numbers are reflected among younger households as well; one third of American households headed by couples under the age of 55 include at least one stepparent relationship. For families with adult children living outside the home, stepfamily relationships increase the average family size by approximately 66 percent.

Stepfamily relationships can be complicated, and this is even more true for those that develop later in life. While stepparents and stepchildren that become part of each other’s lives at an early age often share the same closeness and complexity as biological family relationships, the relationships that develop later in life with grown children are often closer to friendly bonds than deep familial ties.

When people are considering divorce and concerned about the potential impact on their children, a family lawyer is a critically important resource. An attorney may be able to advocate strongly for their client’s relationships with their children in terms of child custody, parenting time and other matters in the divorce proceedings. A lawyer may help to protect the parent-child bond and develop a divorce agreement that fully respects parents’ roles in their children’s lives.