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Stepfamily Struggles: How to Legally Blend Families in Oregon

Combining two families is never easy. However, many people focus on the social struggles of the process and forget about the legal complications. Unfortunately, the legal aspect of blending families can have an outsized impact on how your new family works. If you haven’t taken all the necessary steps, you may find that you or your partner can’t perform essential tasks for your shared children.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Keep reading to learn what kind of legal complications you may face if you’re combining households and the solutions for making your family whole in the eyes of the law.

The Many Complications of Blended Families

It’s one thing to “combine households” if it’s just two consenting adults. However, if you or your new partner have children, things get complicated. Oregon has many laws designed to protect children that can complicate situations for blended families. Just a few of the most common problems include:

Child Pickup

For obvious reasons, many institutions have rules that only certain people can pick up children at the end of the day. Allowing anyone to pick up a kid from school or daycare puts them at risk of kidnapping.

Unfortunately, these rules can make it difficult for parents to pick up their stepchildren. Many schools and daycares require ID before allowing a student to leave with someone. Others only permit direct family members to pick up kids. If you don’t share your last name with your stepchild, you may not be allowed to take them home, even if you are married to their biological parent.

Doctor’s Visits

Oregon is strict when it comes to legal custody. Only a parent or guardian with legal custody, or the right to make legal decisions for the child, can do things like make medical choices. The only people with legal custody for a child are the biological parents unless a court order states otherwise.

As a result, blended families can struggle to manage medical care for their kids. If the parent with legal custody can’t attend a doctor’s appointment, things like vaccinations and other routine care may be delayed.


The US and Oregon tax codes offer tax benefits to people with children. There are tax rebates, deductions, and more for parents who are still legally responsible for their children. These benefits are intended to make it easier to handle the financial burden of raising kids.

Blended families may not be able to make the most of these benefits, however. Even if your household has multiple children who live with you the majority of the time, if they aren’t legally yours, then you can’t claim them on your taxes.

Methods of Blending Families Legally

There’s a simple way to solve these problems. Blending your family legally can resolve all of these issues. When you’ve taken legal action to connect yourself with your stepchildren, you can make it easier to actually parent them.

But how do you actually blend your family? There are a few methods you can use that will remove and resolve legal complications. Here’s how you can simplify your family’s legal situation for good.

Sole Custody

The first solution is the least invasive. If your children’s other parent is trying to interfere with their relationship with your new spouse, you can request sole custody. If you’re granted sole legal custody, then the other biological parent can’t do things like preventing your spouse from picking up your kids.

Still, sole custody isn’t perfect. First, your kids’ other biological parent probably wants to maintain their relationship with them, so they will likely oppose your claim. Fighting for sole custody doesn’t always lead to the result you expect, either; Oregon can award full custody to either parent.

Second, if you have sole custody of your kids, your new spouse still doesn’t have legal responsibility for them. You’ll need to write notes granting them permission to do things like make medical decisions or pick your kids up from school.


The step beyond sole custody is adoption. In an adoption, your new spouse becomes a full legal parent to your kids. They will have all the same rights as you do, neatly removing legal barriers and making you a family unit in the eyes of the law.

If your children’s other biological parent is still alive, adoption is still an option. Oregon offers something known as “independent” adoption. In independent adoption, a child can gain a third parent while their original parents are still alive and involved with their lives. This process was specifically designed for step-parents who want to be legally related to their step-kids. As long as your co-parent doesn’t object, your partner can adopt your children to legally blend your family.

Name Changes

In many adoptions, the child’s last name is changed as a matter of course. There’s a good reason for that. While a child and their legal parent don’t need to share the same last name, it makes many things simpler. Since many institutions use last names as a shortcut to check if you’re really related, sharing your name can prevent delays and questions about your relationship.

There are two ways you can change names to blend families. If just one child is being adopted, then you may change their name during the adoption. On the other hand, if there are multiple adoptions you want to perform, then you may just change your own name. Either way, having your entire family share a name will make things simpler.

Blend Your Family for Good

Building a family takes work and time. You can make the process easier by removing legal barriers between children and their step-parents. With tools like adoption, name changes, and custody orders, you can blend your family legally as well as emotionally.

You can start the process by getting in touch with an experienced family lawyer like those at Regele Law, LLC. Our practice is focused on your family, so you can trust we’ll help you find the right solution to bring your family together for good.