I once read an article about Jenny McCarthy where she stated that her famous ex Jim Carrey is no longer close to her son now that they’ve broken up. Jenny has a son from a previous marriage who Carrey became very close to during their five-year relationship, which ended in 2010. Fast forward to 2014 and McCarthy is now engaged to Donnie Wahlberg. I’m guessing…or maybe hoping…that Wahlberg’s relationship with her son is just as close, if not closer than the one he shared with Carrey, but child/step-parent relationships can be very complex. Which brings me to this question: Should step-parents be allowed, or required, to stay in a stepchild’s life even after a breakup or divorce?

Some step-parents who have divorced someone with a child might not care if they no longer have contact with the child depending on what that relationship was like. The child might not be extremely affected either, especially if he never really became attached to his step-parent in the first place. But what about the kids who grew up with a step-parent who treated him like his/her own and now has to separate from that parent? The devastation could be the same as if he were separating from a biological parent. And if the couple shared a biological child, then a stepchild might also suffer from the possibility of becoming separated from a sibling that he’s bonded with.

Then there’s a case like Jenny McCarthy, where she’s now moved on to a new guy who will be in her son’s life. Perhaps Jim Carrey felt that it would be best to distance himself from her child because he knew that one day she’d move on to someone else who would play a fatherly role. And if Carrey is dating someone new himself, would she take kindly to him staying in his ex’s life by remaining close to her son? I think a case can be made that if a couple doesn’t share a biological child, and were never married, then there’s no reason for an ex to remain in your life period for the sake of child that doesn’t belong to the both of them.

So what is the protocol in situations like this one? My guess is that there is no set rule when it comes to step-parent/child relationships since none are exactly the same. It would depend on the bond that was developed…or not. And it would also depend on how the relationship ended between the parents, and the maturity level of the adults involved as well.

Marrying someone with children is not a decision to make lightly when there’s a possibility that you’d have a huge impact on a child. If that child lives with a step-parent, then that person will be in a position to help raise a child, mold him and shape his views and outlook on life. If the child bonds with the step-parent, then the relationship becomes independent of the biological parent, therefore making a breakup very painful. In this case, both adults should give proper attention to the impact their divorce would have on the child. This is where maturity makes all the difference.

It would be a biological parent’s legal right to keep his or her child away from a step-parent in the case of a divorce (unless that step-parent has legally adopted the child or has been granted custody), but if he or she sees that it’s hurting the child, then the best thing to do in that situation is remain cordial with your ex so that the child can maintain contact if he or she wants to. The step-parent should also keep that door open should the child still crave his or her love, attention and guidance. While a step-parent may not be able to demand visitation for a child that isn’t biologically his/hers, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to request some time together if a bond has developed over years that would be no different than if the two shared DNA.

If the child is of an age where he or she can express themselves freely, then consider their feelings in the breakup and ask them what they’d like to do. Some may be so young that they can’t properly express their desires without upsetting either parent, in which case the parents should use their best judgement as to what is in the child’s best interest. But if you’re dealing with teenage children, then they can continue the relationship with the step-parent or let it drift away. In this case, a biological parent should just step aside and allow your ex to come to his games or his graduation and support the child together. And ideally, isn’t that what one would want? After all, more love is always better.

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