The largest issue that arises in the dynamic between parents and stepparents is whether a stepparent should discipline the child.

This is by far one of the leading issues that family law judges deal with in child custody and visitation cases.  Disciplining a child by a parent is very personal. Often couples, when they have a child discuss how they will discipline them. Even if there isn’t a discussion at some point there is a disagreement with how one parent disciplines.

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At some later time, the couple terminates the relationship, but the child and the disciplinary issues are still present. Now add a new partner to one of the parent’s lives and you have situation where there are three and sometime four adults in the child’s life that are potential disciplinarians. This is where parents must agree or have a child-recommending counselor get involved so there is a solidified agreement on how the child will be disciplined.

Whether it’s corporal punishment or how to deal with an unruly teenager, there must be a discussion. Courts in California will typically indicate that the stepparent must follow what the parents have agreed on, particularly when it involves corporal punishment. Child Protective Services as well as juvenile courts are overflowing with cases of where a stepparent has severally harmed a child by over-disciplining their stepchild.

As with all childrearing, communication is an integral to making sure that everyone that is a parental figure in a child’s life is on the same page on all issues. Blended families can be a gift to a child. It often opens them up to other cultures and other points of views. As long as everyone can see the benefit and keep the focus on the child and not on broken relationships versus new ones the child will grow into a content adult.


About Jennifer Gerard, Esq.

Jennifer Gerard’s extensive career has included the unique experience of practicing in criminal, juvenile and family law. Formerly a Deputy District Attorney of Riverside, her experience, particularly in the domestic violence unit, has given her unique insight into family dynamics and domestic violence issues. After several years prosecuting juvenile and domestic violence cases she went to work for a firm that specialized in juvenile delinquency and dependency cases. Through this firm she was certified as a minors counsel and is qualified to represent minors in all courts including family, criminal and probate. For the past ten years Ms. Gerard has operated a legal practice in downtown Riverside which focuses on representing parties in family law, criminal law, juvenile law and legal guardianship cases. Ms. Gerard is often appointed by the court, as well as, her colleagues in high conflict custody cases to represent the children involved. She also represents children or parents in the Juvenile court. When Ms. Gerard is not in court she teaches criminal and juvenile law classes at University of Phoenix and ITT tech as an adjunct professor.