This week, Perez Hilton reported that 49-year-old actress Demi Moore was up in arms over her children's ongoing relationship with her ex-husband, 34-year-old Ashton Kutcher, star of Punk'd and That 70's Show.
As you'll recall, Demi and Ashton married on September 24, 2005, after almost two years of dating. Demi, who is almost 16 years Ashton's senior, had been previously wed to actor, Bruce Willis with whom she had three daughters: Rumer Willis (born 1988); Scott LaRue Willis (born 1991); and Tallulah Belle Willis (born 1994).
Despite raised eyebrows about the couple's age gap, Ashton and Demi quickly became one of Hollywood's seemingly happiest couples. Ashton was constantly snapped by paparazzi holding hands with Demi and spending time with her children. In fact, in 2006, People Magazine published an article discussing the integrated, close knit family, in which Demi reportedly called Ashton "a great father, who's present [and] a part of [the children's] lives.
In that article, speaking about their parenting tactics, Demi added that "Bruce and Ashton have a mutual respect for one another and we approach it really as a team. We're a team and we want the best for our children."
And Ashton clearly felt similarly. Parade.com quoted Ashton as saying, "there is not a human being I could love more than those girls (Demi's daughters) and their mom. If I had a daughter that was of my blood, I wouldn't love that child any more. I feel like I have three kids, and we'll see whether we're given another child."
When the couple separated in November 2011, amidst allegations that Ashton had had an affair, it came as a shock to many.
But Demi's problems didn't end there. Shortly thereafter, Demi was admitted to rehab for substance abuse issues and anorexia.
And now, Perez Hilton is reporting that Demi is fuming over the fact that her daughters want to keep their relationship with Ashton Kutcher strong. According to the source, "Ashton cheating on Demi humiliated her, and when she got out of the relationship she thought she was setting a good example for her daughters, so when they stayed close to Ashton it devastated her."
The source reports that her daughters have apparently refused Demi's angry requests to stop talking to Ashton. The daughters are tired of being berated by their mother and simply want Demi to drop the issue. According to RadarOnline, all three daughters have been estranged from their mother since her stint in rehab, largely due to their ongoing relationship with Ashton.
Although, in this instance, Demi's daughters are older (all over the age of majority) and therefore can make their own choices regarding their relationship with their step-father, the issue of the step-parent-child relationship is often a contentious divorce issue.
Usually, the biological parent comes down on one of two sides: either they want a clean break from their spouse and want their child to have nothing to do with their step-parent. Or, more commonly, they recognize that the child has come to rely on the emotional support of the step-parent and continue to encourage the relationship. Often, a parent will also seek child support from a step-parent, despite an existing support obligation from the child's biological parent.
In Canada, the Divorce Act defines a "child of the marriage" as a child of two spouses or former spouses whom both stand in the place of parents, or for whom one is the parent and the other stands in the place of parent. Thus, a step-child is included in the definition of "child of the marriage."
Moreover, section 5 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines grants the court discretion where the spouse is not the biological parent of the child, but has been found to stand in place of a parent for the child within the meaning of s. 2(2) of the Divorce Act. In that case, support will be ordered having regard to the Guidelines and the legal duty of any other parent, deemed or otherwise, of the child.
So, a step-parent may be ordered to pay support even where a biological parent is also paying support.
With regard to the rights of a step-parent, a court will generally not refuse access to a step-parent provided that access in the child's best interests, as access is the right of the child.
In the case of Ashton and Demi, it is clear that Ashton and his step-daughters shared quite a close parent-child bond over the course of his marriage to their mother. He was heavily involved in their lives and in parental decision-making. Moreover, it seems fairly apparent that, despite his indiscretion, Demi's daughters have forgiven Ashton and still look to him for support and friendship.
While access is a non-issue given the daughters' age, it is likely that a court would grant access were the children under the age of majority. While Demi is understandably upset, hopefully she will be able to accept the ongoing relationship between Ashton and her children, and embrace it, as it appears to benefit them.
After all, spouses divorce one another, not their children. Both parents should work hard to encourage solid parental relationships despite their differences.