How Do You Make the New Modern Family Feel at Home in a Testy World?

One of our previous blogs discussed the changing shape of the modern family, and it is a transformation that global mobility specialists should recognize and plan for.

To recap, the traditional expatriate family that is typical composed of a nuclear unit of the father, mother, and a few kids is no longer the only thriving model in town. Blended families happen when a man and a woman with previous marriages tie the knot and settle down in one place, bringing their respective kids with them. Single parents can be a Dad or a Mom who has custody of the children with or without support from their ex-spouses.

The minute a global mobility specialist finds out that his preferred, highly recommended assignee is either a single parent, a gay spouse, or an integral part of an extended clan, he has to know what’s best for them

Same-sex marriages are lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender couples who are legally wed, and who may or may not have adopted children. Domestic partners are heterosexual or gay couples who have been living together for some time as spouses but without the legalities; some of them have kids, either their own or adopted.

Some Asian extended families also have elderly parents now in their sunset years or young-adult kids living with them. Finally, well-to-do parents sometimes employ a full time nanny for their kids and treat her as part of their close-knit family.

With the familial structure now radically different, global mobility specialists who are recruiting an assignee who happen to be the head, parent, or spouse of one of the above models would have to do some extraordinary pencil-pushing to get them on board. More important, they would have to do a lot of preliminary research work before they draw up employment contracts.

One important tip: the minute a global mobility specialist finds out that his preferred, highly recommended assignee is either a single parent, a gay spouse, or an integral part of an extended clan, he has to discreetly find out more details about their living and working arrangements. After that, he has to dig deep into his information arsenal and check how the following aspects of assignee employment can apply to them: employment, spousal privilege and benefits, children benefits, legal standing, and taxation, among others.


This is something that must not be taken for granted, especially as far as immigrants, LGBTs, and domestic partnerships are concerned. Difficult as it is to do, the question must be asked: does the global mobility specialist’s company actively promote diversity? Will their workforce be comfortable should the assignee bring along his same-sex spouse during corporate outings or family celebrations? Will said assignee be spared or exposed to slurs and other forms of prejudice?

The global mobility specialist must also not assume that gay marriages or domestic partnerships are automatically allowed by the state or the city where the assignee will be assigned to work. Or even if the government does legalize such unions, he must still check whether the benefits can be extended to the gay or unwed spouse. For example, as pointed out by Benefits Pro, while Texas has legalized LGBT marriages, its local government leaders are still contesting as to whether these partners can receive the benefits usually accorded to legal and heterosexual partners.

Bustle points out that the laws are murkier when it comes to domestic partnerships or civil unions. Common-law spouses of employees are accorded certain rights or benefits but they vary depending on the state. Some like New York City grant domestic partners the same and full privileges and benefits as legal spouses.

Eleven states such as California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin also legally recognize domestic partnerships. In the other states, though, that kind of recognition may be not be as expansive and not all the rights and benefits are automatically granted the domestic spouse. The global mobility specialist would really have to burrow into the legal details of each state to secure the position of his assignee and his or her common-law spouse.


The lines are clearer when it comes to taxation. According to the National Law Review, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made the terms “spouse” and “partner” gender-neutral and legal-friendly. That means that same-sex partners and unmarried spouses are taxed according to the same measurements and standards given that to legal heterosexual couples. Assignees would have to include the gay and/or domestic partner in their taxation forms.

Visitation rights

This aspect might well be beyond the legal issues, but their emotional and relational consequences can have an impact on the assignee and his performance. An assignee who is a single mom might be happy to bring her ten-year-old son to her new country of employment. That country and the corporation hiring her present no obstacles. However, the assignee’s ex-husband, who will remain in their native country, might take issue with the fact that he won’t be having real-time visits with their little boy any time soon. He could resort to emotional blackmail or threats to keep the kid with him—a situation that the assignee would not allow.

The same situation can be applied to blended families. An assignee and his spouse in  a second marriage are being relocated by their new employer to another country. Everyone is looking forward to the assignment, including their two teenage children from their previous unions; Dad has a 16-year-old daughter while Mom has a 15-year-old son. However, the father’s ex-wife and the mom’s ex-husband would insist on maintaining their personal visitation rights, and a regular Skype telecon would not do.

In these difficult situations, the global mobility specialist cannot legally interfere in the arrangements previously made by the assignee with his or her ex-spouses. However, what he can do is give him solid counsel on how to deflect the ex-spouse’s arguments. Pointing out that their children can enjoy unique and unprecedented privileges, such as studying in an American school, might lessen his anger. Throughout this counseling, the global mobility specialist should always have a lawyer on his speed dial.

The global mobility specialist can also coordinate with the assignee’s housing owners to install high-tech equipment in their new homes that will allow a fair share of communication between the ex-spouse and the assignee’s kids—but one which will always be monitored by the assignee. California Corporate Housing has installed virtual reality headsets and virtual assistants in assignee accommodations to make their stay more pleasant. It can extend the same help to assignees to help resolve challenging situations with their ex-spouses.

None of these advisories are cut-and-dried. The modern family is still changing and evolving, and global mobility specialists should ride on the tides of change and adapt. It’s one way to bring in their assignees who have special family arrangements to their destination country safe, sound, and with total peace of mind.