Cuckoo Couples’ Upsetting the Step-Family Nest 

Published on 06 January, 2017 | Sam Hall

Sam Hall - Hall Brown Family Law

It is a well-established fact of modern life that many couples do not stay together for life.

Whilst it’s difficult to know exactly how unmarried partners decide to separate, thanks to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), we do know that one-third of marriages in England and Wales have ended within 15 years of the spouses involved exchanging vows.

The doubling of cohabitation in this country since the mid-1990s has partially been as a result of divorced individuals deciding not to risk going through the process again.

However, there is still a significant proportion of men and women choosing to remarry, even if it doesn’t guarantee a life which is “happy ever after”. In fact, the ONS says that just over one-quarter of all people who divorce have seen at least one previous marriage brought to a legal conclusion.

The incidence of second families in the last decade or so must be set against broader factors, such as the UK’s economic circumstances.

Rising house prices and the waxing and waning of the domestic job market have made it harder for adult children to establish their independence once they leave the family home.

Moving back in with parents – whether temporarily or on a more permanent basis – can be seen as something of a necessity but brings with it certain consequences.

Among them is the impact which the return can have on their parents’ marriage. The re-stocking of the so-called ‘empty nest’ is one thing for natural parents.

For step-parents, who might have though their responsibilities to a partner’s children from an earlier relationship had ended when they left home, such a development can create immense and – sadly – insurmountable strains.

As I’ve been telling the Daily Telegraph, myself and my colleagues at Hall Brown Family Law have been seeing an increase in the number of second marriages collapsing under the stresses caused by returning step-children.

The cramping of parents’ newly-liberated lifestyles, along with extra possible expense, has had some husbands telling me that regard their returning step-children as “cuckoos”, upsetting the delicate balance at home.

It is an upsetting but often unavoidable indication of just how much domestic life in Britain has changed over the four decades or so since major changes were made to our divorce laws.

Share this post: