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Introducing “Significant Others” To Children In The Middle Of A Divorce

I am frequently asked if it is o.k. to start dating once the divorce is filed; that question is usually followed by, is it also o.k. to have my new girlfriend/boyfriend around the children? The next question becomes, can I move in with them? Their spouse will ask their attorney, can you get a court order prohibiting my spouse’s new boyfriend/girlfriend to be around our children? This is a very important topic and one that evokes different responses from individuals, and sometimes from the court.

The answer to the first question posed above is yes; you are free to date whenever you want to date. Whether you should is a different question. For the sake of your spouse and sensitivity in the event that this is not a mutual decision to get a divorce, your dating no sooner than the divorce is filed sends a very strong and hurtful message I think, to your spouse that you are insensitive to their needs and you are simply “rubbing it into their face” when you start to date so quickly. If it is a mutual decision to end the marriage, this is less of an issue. Where it comes into play is where the other spouse does not want a divorce and is very hurt that their spouse filed. While there is no crime, no law broken and you are free to do so, remember that it may have an impact on your divorce and make your spouse angry and much more difficult to settle the case if they think you have a new boyfriend or girlfriend right out of the box. Expect a very difficult divorce case. If you can live with that, including the increased expense of lawyer fees, the longer amount of time it may take to settle the case, and the anger and hatred that clouds rational judgment on financial issues, by all means, “date away!”

On the second issue, you will find most family therapists and clinical psychologists who will tell you that it is not a good idea to introduce significant others to the children at the early stages of the divorce case. From a child’s perspective, their parents getting a divorce, except for the death of a parent is one of the most traumatic and emotional events in a child’s life. Your new boyfriend or girlfriend may be the most wonderful person in the world, but from your child’s perspective, it is not natural to see their parents together, and you are only adding to the child’s stress by introducing significant others, early on in the divorce case. Further, if you may be facing a custody battle or your spouse didn’t want the divorce, they will use your new boyfriend/ girlfriend against you. It cannot help you in the divorce case; it can only hurt you. I would advise against it. Will the court do anything about it? Generally, most courts will enter an order that prohibits significant others from being around the children during overnight placement. There usually isn’t an all encompassing “no contact” order, but courts do have discretion during the divorce to order the parties not to have a new boyfriend or girlfriend around the children at any time. If it can be shown that the significant other has any baggage on them, such as alcohol problems, drugs, criminal problems, mental health issues, domestic violence issues, expect the court to enter a complete no contact order during the pendency of the divorce. You may also find your new boyfriend or girlfriend served with a subpoena to appear at a deposition or at a court hearing, particularly where there are minor children involved the parties are fighting over custody. Custody battles can be ugly and a bunch of mud slinging and what better way to do that than to drag the new boyfriend or girlfriend into the war?

On the issue of whether it is o.k. to move in together during the middle of the divorce, if the answer to the second question was no, then clearly the answer to this question has to be an even more resounding “NO!” I have seen people lose custody over their children when making the mistake of moving in with a new boyfriend or girlfriend no sooner than the ink is dry on the petition for divorce. You may have your reasons for doing it, such as economically, you can’t afford to live on your own, you don’t want to move in with your parents, the new significant other is wonderful and a great person, and while all of those things may be true, you are risking the placement of your children over it. The court can certainly enter an order that a parent not have their significant other around during overnight placement of the children. If that order is issued, how can you live together in the middle of the divorce? You will not be allowed to have the children over at your house or apartment for overnight placement, unless the significant other leaves during those periods of placement. If most clinical psychologists and family therapists think it is a bad idea to introduce a new girlfriend or boyfriend to the children early on in the case, then moving in with them has to be 10x worse, from looking at things from the child’s perspective. If you do not have minor children, it may not matter what you do, but where you have minor children involved, a person is well advised not to move in with a new boyfriend or girlfriend in the middle of the divorce. It’s the opposite of the Nike slogan; “just DON’T do it!”

When going through a divorce, a person may have many questions about custody and placement of their minor children. What better way to start than by calling the family law attorneys at Karp & Iancu, S.C. for a confidential and free initial consultation?

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