How Are Bills Split in a Blended Family?

I am in my early forties and have basically always lived alone. I don’t have children and when I did, as a foster parent, I was a single parent. Therefore, I’ve never really learned to share money with a partner in the household. As a result, and probably because of my deep interest in money psychology, I’m very fascinated by how people share money in their households. For example, how are bills split in a blended family?

What Is a Blended Family?

First, I suppose, we should define what a blended family means. After all, families look so many different ways today. I happen to think that’s a beautiful thing. However, it can certainly complicate finances a lot.

We typically define blended families as families with two or more parents who live together with one or more child. Furthermore, at least one child in the household is the biological or adopted child of only one of the parents. In other words, someone has a child and comes into a relationship with an adult who is not that person’s biological or adoptive parent.

Often, of course, a blended family includes a variety of parents. Two people marry and bring children with them from previous relationships and then perhaps also have children together. Some or all of the children may live in the household full time or may live with other parents in a different household part of the time. They do live in the home at least part of the time.

Common Financial Issues in Blended Families

As a single person who lives alone, I’m fascinated by how couples work together to resolve money issues. Add in children, and things get even more complicated. Then add in step-children, children who only live in the house part-time, perhaps adult children of a partner you’re newly in a relationship with … It seems like so many different financial issues must come up.

Here are some of the common financial issues of blended families:

  • Each partner might come into the new family with their own financial obligations. Do either of you pay child support or alimony to a previous partner?
  • In turn, do one or both of you receive alimony or child support from a previous partner? How do you want to count this in terms of the family’s shared income?
  • If you officially marry one another, how does that income from alimony / child support legally change?
  • Each partner might also come into the new family with their own debt. After all, you’ve lived a life before this blended family.
  • Are you equally splitting all of the costs of everyone in the family? Or do you want to take independent responsibility for “your own kids” meaning the ones your current partner is not a biological parent of? Does that answer change if one of you is helping to support an adult child who no longer lives at home?
  • A single parent with one child moves in to a home with a single parent with five children. There are now six children. Obviously, the first parent hasn’t previously paid utilities and rent for a home with so many children. How will everyone adjust?
  • Are there any cultural differences in your blended family that might impact your financial decisions? For example, are either of you helping aging parents while also raising your children together?
  • Legally, how will finances change if one for both of you passes away unexpectedly? Where does that leave each child?
  • One or both of you might bring assets to the family. For example, one might move into a house the other owns. How does that change things financially?

All Families Have Challenges

Of course, these are on top of the regular financial issues that all families have to figure out. For example, do children get allowances? Do you want shared or separate bank accounts or both? Do you prioritize saving or spending? Who is going to be the primary financial provider, if there is one. How do you want to split the bills?

How Are Bills Split in a Blended Family?

So, let’s take a look at just that last question: How are bills split in a blended family? Of course, every family has to figure this out for themselves. Each family looks different and gets to come to conclusions about what works best for their family. That said, my research indicates that there are some common ways how bills are split in a blended family:

  • Some families keep separate bank accounts for their children. Money from child support goes directly into these accounts. They use this money for specific expenses for that child, such as their healthcare.
  • Some families keep separate accounts just for each parent. That parent’s income, including alimony or child support, goes into that account. They agree to split the bills – either evenly or using an agreed-upon percentage based upon their income.
  • Other families keep both separate and joint accounts. They contribute evenly or with an income-based percentage. The joint account pays for the household bills. The separate accounts are just for individual discretionary spending.
  • Note that income-based percentage splits can be determined based on a variety of factors. You might like solely at income. Alternatively, you might look at the income left over after you each pay your obligations, such as child support to your ex.
  • Some families choose to marry and to legally blend all finances and all assets. They make all financial decisions together.

So, how are bills split in a blended family? It depends on the family. But in all instances, the decisions require a lot of open, honest communication. There are a lot of issues to resolve. Everyone involved comes to the table with their own financial personality, history, priorities, etc. The conversation is likely ongoing. Therefore, begin talking with your new partner about money as soon as possible. Learn to have these conversations in a healthy way.

Do you live in a blended family? How do you split the bills? Share your stories in the comments!

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