This is not an academic essay nor is it an attempt to prevent second marriages. This is meant to be a helpful essay presenting all of the facts that surround the legal and psychological aspects of a second marriage. This will probably seem polemic but it is still a document based on factual information.
The overall statistics are not skewed in favor of second marriages. Second marriages generate more conflicts than first marriages both with regards to legal ramifications as well as resulting criminal conflicts. In addition to these facts, the rate of divorce from second marriages is much higher than in first marriages.
Ultimately, it is in the hands of every individual to decide for themselves what is best for them not to mention that rationally, such decisions should mostly be made based on facts and reality. This is the issue that I will be covering here.
All of the examples given below (either relating to “traditional” married couples or common-law marriages) involve children under 18 (minors by the Israeli Law) living with one parent.
Two Categories of Second Marriages
1. The divorced father with his children:
In most cases the mothers are granted custody of the children and not the father. Therefore, if the children are in the custody of the father then there are usually extenuating circumstances that led to this variation from the norm:
- An incapable mother (for medical reasons)
- A mother who opted to emigrate (or return to her country of origin)
- A mother who was found unsuitable by the courts (after a psychiatric evaluation)
- A mother who is addicted to drugs or alcohol and can’t take care of her children, etc.
- Other non-specific reasons based on a judge’s ruling since they can decide on the mother’s, or the father’s, incapability as they see fit. Even though in most cases these rulings are appealed and sent for negotiation in a higher court, most of the appeals are denied.
2. The divorced woman with her children and her “non-existent husband”:
This situation is very well known in the world of divorced parents. In this situation, the mother is abandoned by her husband or ex, the father of her children, during or after the divorce proceedings. She consequently becomes the sole provider for the family, the only one who can and actually does take care of them.
In most of these cases the custody was given as a joint custody but de Facto the mother is the only one there for them. Many times the father has not disappeared completely. He is still in the surrounding area but is not participating in the day-to-day care of the children and, generally, is not financially supporting them.
Typically, this kind of father tends to appear sporadically when he feels the opportunity is right so that he can show his children how “truly important they are to him” and how “caring and giving” he really is! As upsetting and unfortunate as this may seem, this kind of father has his own interest at heart and not the children’s, as it should rightly be.
The Implications relating to the divorced woman with the “non-existent husband/ex”:
It is clearly unfair to expect the father to always be the flexible and understanding one in this situation. It is also unreasonable to expect the new step-mother to be reasonable towards her new situation as well. There need to be joint goals and feelings of working together to help everyone co-exist in their new situation and to learn to be more flexible and understanding. By getting professional advice and assistance before this new family cell is created there is a greater chance to achieve balance and harmonious co-existence.
There is no guarantee that this will lead to a fairy tale ending. In many cases not everyone can be appeased and most of those involved in the situation will not have the upper hand and cannot – and should not – expect that their needs or wants to be handed to them on a silver platter. This is most likely a losing battle right from the start and only if all sides involved are willing to give up on their desire to be right and victorious is there a good chance that things can work out. There are no ultimate winners or losers – everyone will lose and win something!
Here are three scenarios that need to be addressed in this situation:
- Previously non-involved biological father becomes involved in the conflict
- One must avoid this at all costs since it is extremely detrimental to everyone when the non-involved father figure is dragged into the conflict by the children, a tactic that they most likely will, and can, try to use.
- Police and legal system involvement
- When the children understand that they may have a new partner (police and legal system) to back their complaints and dissatisfaction; once these outside forces enter the picture it usually leads to the dissolution of the marriage. It is strongly advised at this point to consult a good criminal lawyer as soon as you have even the slightest suspicion that the children may be using this for their own personal gain.
- Social Services involvement
- Another equally dangerous card that can be played and will eventually in almost all cases most certainly lead to police involvement. This should be avoided at all costs!
- Step-fathers are the most vulnerable figures subject to persecution in any second marriage and if there are step-daughters involved it is even worse. Israel is not a complete democracy and the legal system is even less understanding and democratic. We are one of the few democracies where one can be charged guilty until proven innocent.
- If a situation arises in a second marriage where a criminal case has been opened against the step-father (i.e., molestation, sexual abuse, improper behavior, etc.), the chances of saving the marriage are close to zero (as are the chances of having the file against the step-father closed with a not-guilty ruling).
One other common and problematic scenario is when the mother becomes extremely “over-protective” of her children. It is almost impossible to save a marriage when the mother acts emotionally to try to “protect” her children. All that is needed for this to happen is for a mother to feel like her children are in danger which consequently leads to her motherly instinctual response.
A mother feeling “attacked” will defend her children in almost all situations even when it seems unreasonable. This is oftentimes a result of her feelings of responsibility to the children when left as the sole caregiver for them and often the emotional side will overpower the rational side. An overprotective mother can be a step-father’s worst nightmare leaving him no chance to be right, being left to fend for himself and feeling overall like an outsider. From my own experience, this is the most common reason for divorce in a second marriage.
The Implications relating to the divorced father and his children:
As you may have guessed, there are many internal conflicts when trying to accept a new step-mother. Children tend to be more reserved, less friendly and less flexible than they were with their biological mother.
The new mother tends to become an “unconscious competitor” with their biological mother generating many internal conflicts and bringing upon her less empathy and sympathy from everyone involved including the father’s extended family. It is a common mistake and in bad taste to do so but it happens very often regardless.
The father is no different than the mother in this regard and will most likely become over-protective of his children thereby generating an unbalanced relationship where the children could play a part in manipulating one parent against the other.
The Implications regarding the Involvement of Advisors:
The more complicated things get, the more advisors, friends, family and free advice you will receive! Give them an inch and they will walk all over you. The more you let them interfere in your family, the less likely you will be able to resolve these conflicts on your own. Keep in mind that they are offering you their opinions and not ultimate truths. You know what’s best for you and your family so only accept help from a neutral party whose assistance you truly want to receive!
Two Misguided Approaches to Step-Parenting:
- The biological parent sees his/her relationship with the new spouse as being specific to them and wants to receive the new spouse’s full attention and concentration, not realizing that it is only natural for the step-parent to act as part of the family as a whole – which includes step-parenting the children too!
- Another common approach to step-parenting is to be the invisible step-parent, someone who is nice to the children all the time and doesn’t get involved in daily conflicts. The younger the kids are, the more unreasonable it is to expect to successfully be the non-interfering step-parent. The more problematic the children are, in addition to the new issues they may have when dealing with the divorce, the less possible it will be for you to remain a neutral bystander without any involvement on your part.
After a divorce, people generally want to rebuild their lives anew. When one decides to build a new life, one must understand there is a price to pay. Nothing will be as it was before the divorce or even after the divorce period before remarrying. If a new family cell is going to be created it must be recreated using all the proper tools one has in order to help it succeed.
- Plan ahead and be prepared. You cannot predict the future or prevent complications from arising.
- Do not make an impulsive decision; take your time to carefully evaluate and make rational decisions.
- Be aware of the challenges you will be facing.
- Have a “plan B” just in case.
- Do not let yourself be carried away by emotions as strong as they may be. You must be rational and realistic.
- When and if something “bad” happens it is better to retreat before it is too late, and seek help if necessary.