Reach agreement with ex-spouses and their new partners

After a divorce, there often are hard feelings. While some Minnesota couples might want to shut themselves off from their ex-spouse, it's impossible to do so when children are involved. Child custody issues, however, can run smoothly between spouse, ex-spouses and even new spouses if parents and any stepparents sit down and address issues of importance.

Once everyone is able to get together, the group must follow four key rules:

1. Remain respectful, as tough as that might be

2. Understand everyone has a role in the conversation

3. Don't react negatively to comments that might be hurtful

4. Figure out what everyone has in common and ways to compromise.

In other words, people must stay positive and treat those sitting across the table the way they would want to be treated themselves.

Stepparents have a difficult time in this conversation and must know their role and when to interject opinions. Stepparents should stay away from issues that concern only the former spouses, especially decisions about the children they share.

Biological parents, too, also must learn not to step on the budding relationship between the stepparents and their children. While it is natural for parents to worry about the new person having an influence in their children's lives, they must step back and look at the bigger picture of how children might benefit from another role model.

If concerns still exist, they should be shared with the ex-spouse to try to reach common ground.

Reaching a happy medium in this awkward situation is crucial to developing a cordial, long-term relationship. While it might seem impossible at first, it is not. For people committed to approaching any discussions with a positive attitude and open mind, issues that once loomed as huge might not seem so big after all.

Source: The Oregonian, "Ex-spouses and stepparents: Can they get along?," Heidi Williams, Nov. 5, 2012

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