As we have previously discussed, creating a custody schedule that works for everyone is no simple task. You have probably noticed that the Court considers many factors before issuing a custody schedule tailored to your family. We mentioned in a previous post that the Court will likely favor a schedule that accommodates the presence of extended family, but what happens when the parties begin to form new families and new relationships? Do siblings have any importance?
I think you can probably gather that since we brought it up, of course siblings are important to consider! This is a difficult topic to approach, mostly because it can take on so many forms. Despite the different scenarios, the Court’s attitude is generally the same for all of them- keeping siblings together is important.
While the attitude about sibling relationships is constant, the action the Court takes depends on the specific scenario. Taking a look at the following common situations may help you to manage your expectations, and to also see the ways in which a Court can arrive at a custody determination.
So, let’s assume that Mom and Dad had a child (Child #1) and due to their separation, the Court is tasked with issuing a custody schedule. We can assume that both parents are equally fit for custody. Here are the ways in which new relationships and the presence of siblings can complicate a custody schedule:
- Mom has another child (Child #2) with another partner. Child #2 is Child #1’s half-sibling. Now, the schedule in this situation should not skew too much, if at all. The only thing to be cognizant about is in the case of a relocation, the presence of a half-brother or half-sister may be a weighing factor in a Judge’s decision. This is amplified if Mom and her new partner marry.
- Dad gets married, and his new spouse is a widower with two children. The two children are Child #1’s step-siblings. LIke the previous scenario, this situation should not alter the schedule in anyone’s favor too drastically, unless of course a relocation occurs.
- Mom remarries, and her new spouse has a child from a prior marriage. He shares custody of his child with his former spouse with a week on, week off custody arrangement. The child is Child #1’s step-sibling. Now, unlike the previous two scenarios, this is a scenario that could have some level of impact on the type of schedule you may be granted. The Court may decide to follow suit with the step-sibling’s custody schedule, as to arrange for the children to actually we in the same household at the same time. That is, Mom may have custody at the same time as her new partner has custody. The notion is to provide time for the children to develop and grow a sibling relationship, which is a bond that has the potential to last for the duration of their lives.
- Both Mom and Dad now have new marriages. Dad’s partner has three children from her prior relationship and enjoys a shared custody schedule. Mom and her new partner have two biological children. Child #1 has three step-siblings and two half-siblings. The Court is likely to accommodate the custody arrangement arranged among the step-siblings. It is important to note that the Court is not valuing the step-sibling relationships anymore than the half-sibling relationships, but is instead looking at convenience.
- Both Mom and Dad have married spouses who each has a shared custody arrangement. This is where things can get especially complicated, as you can see another layer of complexity exists. The Court will likely consider both custody schedules and will devise a plan that compliments them both as equally as possible.
You can imagine that the combinations are seemingly endless, as all families are different. There are a few important takeaways that can help you to feel more informed, especially in these complicated situations. First and foremost, as with extended family, you are not going to be penalized for not having any of the above situations, though it may sometimes feel that way as the Court attempts to foster a relationship among the siblings. When a party wants to relocate, as with the presence of extended family, having siblings is viewed as a positive, and may help drive a Court’s decision, which is amplified if the party and new partner are married or engaged.
When we think of custody arrangements and siblings, the 1970s TV show “The Brady Bunch” often comes to mind. The family blended as a functioning unit, and despite the show featuring two sets of three children coming together as one family, after watching the show a few times, it is often forgotten that they are step-siblings. When coming to a decision, the Court has this goal in mind as well- to treat step-siblings and half-siblings as what they are: siblings. The Court dot not intentionally break up families, and this is no different in case where siblings may complicate a custody schedule.
This article was written by writer and content strategist, K. Gleason.
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