Financial issues are a common source of contention in stepfamilies, so start thinking about the following things ahead of time:
__: How will you set up your finances … joint or separate accounts?
__: If you plan on a joint account, be sure to get the paperwork in to add a new spouse to a joint account.
__: If you haven’t already, you should check each other’s credit scores. This will impact loan or credit card rates and might influence how you want to set up accounts.
__: Discuss each other’s debts and liabilities, and discuss a plan to tackle these issues. Your partner’s outstanding debt is now your concern and will affect your new family, and funds may even be garnished if you have a joint account. So get everything out in the open and have a plan to address this.
__: What are the costs associated with the kids? How much of this does child support cover?
__: Remember that child support doesn’t always come on time. Talk about what time of the month it normally arrives, and how this works into your schedule of financial obligations, and work out a backup plan in case child support is late or absent.
__: Another thing to consider: Remarriage could potentially impact your own child support payment. For example, let’s say dad gets remarried, and both he and his new wife are employed. His child support payments were determined when dad was single and living on his income alone. This means the biological mother could file a motion asking the court to increase the amount of child support owed, since his living expenses have been reduced. Child support will only change if either you or your ex petitions for it, but it’s something to keep in mind.
__: Sit down and create a budget that is based on each of your current incomes and expenditures, and then go over how this might change when you move in together and are sharing expenses.
__: Are you going to have to make sacrifices as a family? If so, where should these costs be trimmed, and how can you ensure the pain is shared equally and fairly?
__: What about college funds? How should these be handled? Should you contribute equally to all kids? What if one parent has already started on this while the other hasn’t? How will you make up the ground and even it out? It’s important to ensure children and stepchildren have equal opportunities.
__: Do the same when it comes to retirement funds. Sit down to figure out where each person is at.
Consider getting together with an attorney and writing a will that encompasses your new situation. Once again, the focus should be on treating children & stepchildren equally. If you’re planning on making this family work, you need to treat stepkids as your own, and you don’t want to leave behind a legacy of conflict and hurt feelings.
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