I would have to say that in the work I do with Stepfamilies, money is the #1 source of conflict followed closely with the ex-spouse and parenting differences.
Money received and money spent is scrutinized by absolutely everyone in the family. Couples, children and the ex-spouses look to see who gets what, who spends what and on whom. It becomes emotionally ladened with our instilled value of “fairness”.
Here is the list of the common money-wars I hear from my clients.
- Bio father spoils his children
- Stepmother favours her bio children more than her stepchildren
- Stepparent (usually the stepmother) resents the money going out of their household for spousal & child support
- Child support payments being received and being paid creates an imbalance of what is being spent on the children
Money and Stepfamilies can be a toxic combination when couples go into the relationship blindly and don’t address their money situation ahead of time… Preferably BEFORE they make the decision to bring their families together!
How couples choose to deal with the flow of money coming in and leaving their household is as different as each family is unique.
Here are a set of questions stepfamily couples can answer individually and then come together to discuss.
- How comfortable are you in discussing money with your partner?
- If not comfortable – what do you need to help you be more comfortable?
- Do you feel “guilty” about money in any way? If so what is creating this guilt?
- Who has a better grasp of the money situation in your household?
- What can you do to either have a better grasp or help your partner be better informed and involved?
The discussion of money runs the risk of getting highly emotional. When answering the above questions and discussing them as a couple, it’s important to set blame and judgement aside.
In simple coaching terms…
Define the issue -> Determine the Action Required -> Create accountability measures
In terms of balancing the flow of money coming in and leaving the house for child support, special and extraordinary expenses and spousal support, as team members in this family relationship you each need to get a good clear picture of the situation and make decisions to help your family now and in the future.
This is an area that I spend a lot of time helping stepfamilies who have come to me for mediation.
I take the emotion out of the discussion, give them legal information regarding their financial situations and help couples create a money plan that brings a sense of “fairness” that feels right for them.
A while back I interviewed Karen Mizgala who is the Co-founder of Money Coaches Canada. We discussed money challenges families experience and reasons for these challenges.
I’m sharing the video link below for those readers who are interested.