Over the last ten years, blended and stepfamilies have grown by fifty per cent in Australia and now make up more than ten per cent of partners with children. Reaching agreement on financial matters in new relationships can often lead to problems. Add dependent children to the relationship and the situation immediately becomes more complex.
Janine and Brett decided to split the expenses equally when they moved in together. This is despite the fact that Janine lost out on her single parent benefit due to the move. She battled financially and had to take on additional work, but she felt that it was only fair. Brett was happy to take on more than his share of financial responsibilities, as many men in Australia are, but for Janine, this was not an option.
A stepparent is not legally bound by Australian law to contribute to the upkeep of the stepchildren. Maintenance of stepchildren is, however, a complex one which is influenced by the gender pay gap of nearly 18%, societal stereotypes, the amount of support offered by the natural father, and the Australian tax and welfare systems.
In Australia, the income of the new partner is included when calculating various tax concessions and benefits, and this can leave women, particularly stay-at-home mothers, with a financial headache. Even mothers who do work have a reduced capacity to earn, as they often work reduced hours so that they can transport children to and from school and extramural activities. Child care costs can also take a large chunk of the earning power of the working mother.
Rachelle was determined to stay at home and would never have agreed to marry a man who was not prepared to support her and her children. Her husband Pete had a hard time supporting them since he had to pay maintenance for his twin boys who lived with their mother. Within five years the financial burden had placed so much stress on the family that Rachelle and Pete became a statistic joining the sixty per cent of stepfamilies that split. This is double the rate of nuclear family splits.
Many women believe that if the new partner is serious about the relationship they will take on the children. How to share financial resources is just one of the many difficult hurdles that blended families must negotiate before the families merge. In the end, it is probably fair to pool the financial resources. Happy families share and unequal financial relationships could ring the end of a happy family life.