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Divorce can lead to family expansion

For people in Missouri considering divorce, loneliness or separation from family can be a major concern. However, the growth of divorce in general and particularly among older Americans has also meant the expansion and broadening of understandings of family to include stepparents, stepchildren, half-siblings and other parts of an extended family. Family structures have grown increasingly large and complex along with the broader acceptance of divorce in American society.

This is especially true as a larger number of older Americans decide to divorce; for couples over the age of 55 with adult children, one-third include stepchildren. For households of Americans under the age of 55, the numbers are similar; almost one-third include at least one stepparent and sometimes two. Research has indicated that this is true for both married and unmarried cohabiting couples, and for people with grown, adult children who live outside the home, stepchild and stepparent relationships increase family size by approximately 66 percent.

Nearly 30 percent of Americans older than 50 have married more than one time, and about 40 percent of them are also involved with stepfamily relationships. However, these can also be complex and quite different from one another. Stepparents and stepchildren who become part of the same blended family when children are young and living at home often have close relationships similar to those with biological parents. On the other hand, remarriages and relationships that occur after grown children are out of the house often lead to friend-style relationships that do not resemble parent-child bonds. Financial conflicts and concerns can also be an issue as couples and children determine how to balance financial expenditures or family time with biological and step relatives.

People who are ending their marriage and who have children may be particularly concerned about the impact on their relationship and the kind of child custody and visitation schedules they will obtain. They might want to meet with family law attorneys to see what alternatives are available.

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