New Stepmom Circles Podcast: Stepfamilies and Money, Part One

21 07 2011

A new Stepmom Circles Podcast is ready! When I first began researching stepfamily life so I could write my book, I came across Dr. Margorie Engel. At the time she was the president of the Stepfamily Association of America, which is now the National Stepfamily Resource Center and we talked then about stepfamily money issues. I recently interviewed Dr. Engel again and we talked for hours about all the things that stepfamilies face when it comes to money: saving for college, insurance, estate planning and much, much more. This podcast is the first in a series of three. She also generously gave us documents to help guide our discussions of these topics with our families.

Click on the link below to download the packet of information. I hope these Stepmom Circles podcasts lead to fruitful discussions for you and your family. Good luck!

Stepfamily Information.Engel





Stepmom Circles Podcast: Update

12 04 2011

Hi Ladies:

I have been working hard doing interviews for my Stepmom Circles Podcast and I’m so excited to share them with you. I’ve had some enlightening conversations with people including:

Dr. Margorie Engel, former president of the Stepfamily Association of America (Now called the National Stepfamily Resource Center.) We talked about stepfamilies and money. This will be a two- or three-part series of podcasts.

Dr. Patricia Papernow, an advisory member of the National Stepfamily Resource Center and author of Becoming a Stepfamily. We talk about the stepfamily development cycle and the common challenges every stepfamily faces, plus best practices for post-divorce parenting.

Ron Deal, author of The Smart Stepfamily and The Smart Stepmom, has a new book out this spring: The Smart Stepdad.

I’ll have the first podcast ready next week. Stay tuned!





Stepfamily Estate Planning: Do you have a will?

11 11 2010

Hi Jacque: Your book and emails have been so helpful to me over the last couple years, and I’m happy to report that I’m getting married next month to a wonderful, wonderful man (who happens to have two young sons). Thank you for sharing your wisdom and compassion and helping me feel comfortable with the unexpected path toward stepmotherhood that my life has taken!

I do have a question for you that I’d love to see addressed (and love to get other stepmoms’ feedback on). My fiance and I haven’t had a conversation about wills, and as much as I don’t want to be thinking about that right now, it does seem like something we should do once we’re married. So I’m curious: how do most stepfamilies handle inheritance issues? My assumption is that most married couples who have children together only pass on an inheritance to the kids once both parents have passed away. Is that the norm with married couples when stepkids are involved, too? If – God forbid – something were to happen to my fiance, the last thing I’d want is to end up with financial difficulties or to start fighting with the ex about how much the kids should be getting. I certainly would want to fulfill my fiance’s goals as far as funding his kids’ college educations, but I’m not sure if/how that should get codified in a legal document. What should we be thinking about as we start talking about wills?

Congrats on your upcoming wedding! You are so smart to ask about this. Estate planning is a challenge no matter when you discuss it, but it is absolutely critical. And just because you get things down on paper now, remember there is plenty of time for you to change things later on if your heart or your circumstances change. I HIGHLY recommend finding a professional estate planning attorney to help you do this. Make sure to ask if they are experienced with stepfamily issues and you can educate yourself beforehand with some of Marjorie Engel’s wonderful work on stepfamily financial issues.

Instead of guessing, work with a financial planner, also well-versed in stepfamily matters, who can help you determine the amounts of life insurance you’ll need, retirement, college savings, etc. Just going through the process of working on all of this is a wonderful way for you and your partner to work through some of these challenging issues. If you have children from a previous marriage or you have a new baby together, you’ll need to discuss how you both want to take care of your children.

You make an assumption here that assets are only left to the children once both parents have passed away. Though that certainly does happen, it’s not always the case. In a stepfamily, if dad dies before you do, things can get extremely complicated. This is the stuff legends are made of. You need to be taken care of but dad might want his childrens’ needs addressed as well. Some divorce decrees state that a portion of or all of Dad’s life insurance will go to his children directly or to support his children. What does your husband’s (or your) divorce decree state?

You have no legal relationship to the stepkids when Dad is living or when he’s gone. We found out that in Minnesota if my husband and I both died in a car crash, the state makes the assumption legally that my husband died first. That means his assets are transferred into my estate, which means that our biological daughter would inherit everything and my stepchildren would get nothing of their father’s estate, UNLESS we specify our inheritors in our wills or set up a trust to handle the life insurance payouts.

SO. To answer your question. It is CRITICAL to have your estate planning done when you’re in a stepfamily. Though it can be extremely difficult to have the kind of conversations you’ll need to have to get this done, just imagine how much harder it would be for the people you leave behind if you don’t do it. ICK. Plus if you don’t have a will or trusts set up to transfer your assets to the next generation, the government will step in and try to do it for you. You’ll estate will go into probate so the loved ones you left behind will have to pay to have the government tell them what it thinks you wanted to do with the money.

Not good. As I’ve mentioned in past articles and in my book, the laws are different in each state. Have I scared you yet?

I had a brief conversation about legal issues in a Stepmom Circles podcast with Stepfamily Law Expert Margaret Mahoney. It is in the archive so you can find it here.

All right, my ladies. Let’s discuss! Do you have a will? Have you looked at it recently? How do you work through some of emotional landmines with your partner?





Your Questions Answered: Ex Seeking More Child Support

3 06 2010

Dear Jacque,

I am wondering if you can point me in the right direction?  My husband’s ex-wife just filed suit seeking more child-support.  We feel very strongly that she is doing incredibly well right now in respect to support and that her request is very unreasonable.  I don’t know how to research legal defenses/arguments, etc. that an ex-husband should make when he is faced with a suit seeking more child support.  Do you know where I can find that information?  When I do a “google” search, all that I found was information to help the ex-wife claim more money, as opposed to helping the dad prevent a larger and unreasonable child support obligation. Thank you very much.

I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with that stress! The laws in each state are so different that it’s hard to say where to start researching but I have a few ideas. You might try going to the best family lawyer in your state and ask if they have experience with stepfamilies. Ask all of your friends for referrals. Again, make sure they have stepfamily experience. You could listen to the podcast I did with stepfamily law expert Margaret M. Mahoney, professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of Stepfamilies and the Law. As far as I know her book is the only one on this topic. The Stepmom Circles podcast I did with Margaret is archived and available here in The Store.

Also here are a few organizations that help fathers:

http://www.fathersrightsinc.com/
http://www.fathersrights.org/ (this site has attorney referrals too)

I know that there are no easy answers here. As a stepmother I can see how challenging this would be. I know I don’t need to remind you but I’ll say it out loud for all of our benefits: Both a biological mother and father have a legal and moral obligation to financially support their children until they are successfully launched into the world. Rarely do these situations end up feeling fair to anyone. And money is something that is often in short supply on all sides and can easily be used as a tool that exes use to continue fighting. If the ex would agree to work with a mediator instead of going to court, that would help everybody. Court battles are not fun.

If you do end up having to pay more support out of your household to support your husband’s former you’re going to have to deal with the anger that brings up. Perhaps you can reduce your resentment and stress over the situation if you focus on the fact that A) You are doing a good deed by helping to raise these kids. B) You’re racking up some seriously good karma! C) This will come to an end. The kids will grow up. The payments won’t continue forever.

You might also look for a financial adviser or coach who can really help you put together a plan that will work for you and your family no matter what happens with the child support payments. Good luck!





What counts?

25 02 2009

Ladies, I need to get something off my chest. And I hope if you’ve struggled with this one you will give me your ideas about how to deal with it!

I am frustrated with our other household right now, a.k.a the ex, because I can’t figure out what counts and what doesn’t on the financial tally sheet. We do not have a very good system worked out to keep track of who spends what on the kids and who owes whom. My husband has never had a conversation with his ex about what counts and so it is a guessing game. Because we have the kids exactly 50/50 (and I mean to the hour, people), my husband does not pay child support. Each household pays for the upkeep of the children when they are living there, and everything else is split, but only if it counts.

Some things we spend money on count toward this tally sheet in the ex’s head. Some things do not. For instance, any summer camps she sends the kids to count. Any summer camps we send the kids to do not.

If she has the kids for an extra meal at her house, we must pay for it because that counts. The cash we shell out to drive back and forth dropping the kids off at her house does not count.

But shouldn’t she be glad that she now has two more people in her children’s lives who contribute to their financial well-being? My stepchildren have a stepfather and a stepmother who now help support them. But who counts? Only stepdad? How about the dough I’ve forked over for summer camp to help them make friends and keep their butts off the couch all summer long? Why doesn’t that count?

The reason my book for stepmoms has won two awards is because I interviewed wise stepmoms across the country so I could learn how to be a better stepmother myself. I am a writer, a stepmom and stepdaughter, but not a Ph.D. I am stumped on this one, girls. The system we have can not continue into the future with cars, college, and weddings looming. Any advice would be deeply appreciated.