Many second marriages now come with the bonus of additional children—step children. As a step parent, you’re expected to provide support and understanding for your “bonus children.” But what other responsibilities do you have? Namely, what are the financial responsibilities?
Financial Responsibility of a Step Parent?
Your financial responsibility is largely determined by your step child’s situation. Did his other parent die? Are his parents divorced, but the other spouse is paying child support? Was he abandoned by his other parent and receives no visits or monetary help from that parent? Do you have your own kids that you bring to this marriage? If so, what is your financial situation with your ex?
All of these variables come into play when you decide what your financial responsibility is as a step parent.
Do You Want to Adopt?
One of the first questions before you tie the knot is to determine if you want to adopt your step children. Of course, this isn’t an option for everyone, especially if the step children’s other parent plays a role in their lives. However, if your step children have an absent parent or their parent has died, you may want to adopt them, especially if they are open to the idea.
There are many advantages to adopting step children. Most importantly, you will then be able to have a legal say in their lives. Likewise, if your new spouse becomes incapacitated, you are recognized by the law as your step children’s parent.
Talk to a Financial Planner
After you’ve made that crucial decision, the next is to consider talking to a financial planner. When merging a household, there are many financial decisions to make.
When it comes to taxes, will you file jointly with your new spouse? If so, will you be able to claim the children on your tax return, or will their other parent?
When it comes to money management, will you merge finances or keep them separate? If you decide to keep them separate, what will be your financial obligation to your step children?
Analyze Your Life Insurance Beneficiaries
Finally, analyze your life insurance beneficiaries. You, your spouse, and your step children are now a family, and as such, you want to make sure that they will be able to function financially should the unexpected happen.
Unfortunately, some people forget to change their beneficiaries, so as soon as you’re married, make sure to change the beneficiaries to your new family. Also evaluate whether you have enough life insurance after your new marriage. You may find you need to secure more.
Each relationship is unique. While there are no explicit rules about a step parent’s financial responsibility to her step children like there are with biological parents and children, you still want to make sure your new family is taken care of financially. You can do this by considering whether to adopt, consulting with a financial planner, and updating your life insurance.