I am many times asked, “is it o.k. if I move in with my new boyfriend/girlfriend, while the divorce is pending?” The answer depends on whether you have children or not, and if there are no minor children, that you aren’t making a request on spousal support (maintenance), as it may affect both. Let’s deal with the financial issue first.
If you are married long term, (more than 20 years) or have been married in the 12-18 year range and you are requesting maintenance from your spouse, “cohabitation” can be a factor in the court denying you any temporary financial support, while the case is pending. Much depends on the overall factual circumstances on how you and your significant other may be allocating your expenses and who pays for what, but if you are serious about requesting spousal support, you are killing your case, in my opinion, by moving in with a significant other during the middle of the divorce, notwithstanding any arguments you care to make to me or to the court to rationalize why it is o.k. In a future blog, I will also be talking about the impact that “cohabitation” has on a person who is collecting spousal support and is already divorced.
When it comes to having minor children, you are also seriously hurting your chances to have either primary placement or even equal placement by making a decision to move in with a new boyfriend or girlfriend during the pendency of the divorce. There are many reasons for this; 1. Most clinical psychologists and therapists will tell you that it is harmful to children to expose them early on in the case to significant others. Except for the death of a parent, a couple getting a divorce is the most traumatic event in a child’s life; it will take them time to heal and to understand why mom and dad are getting a divorce. Now you want to introduce them to a new boyfriend or girlfriend. What if they get attached, and then you break up with this person? Now you have another emotional issue to deal with your children, and this is all before the divorce is even completed; 2. Courts frown upon parents quickly introducing new boyfriends and girlfriends to the children in the early stages of the divorce. Courts can enter an order to the parties that prohibits their significant other from sleeping over during the periods of time the children are in their care. What do you do in that case, if you two are actually already living together? Now, you would be prohibited from having any overnight placement with the children and seriously harming your case. In some more dramatic and extreme cases, the court could go as far as entering an order that bars the new significant other from being around the children at all. This would be true in the event that the person has issues with drugs, alcohol, mental health issues, prior issues of domestic violence, etc., that may impact on the children.
If you and your spouse are going through a custody battle, your life and your spouse’s life will be under a magnifying glass. Every little piece of dirt about you that ever happened in your life is going to be brought up by your spouse and their attorney. If you have any baggage about you, whether alcohol related issues, drug problems, prior criminal convictions, mental health issues, evidence of child abuse, neglect or domestic violence, that all is going to be used against you in the courtroom. If that isn’t bad enough, now that you have moved in with your new boyfriend and girlfriend, their life as well is going to be put under a magnifying glass and they are going to be dragged through the mud. They can be subpoeaned to give testimony by your spouse’s attorney, and/or the court appointed guardian ad litem, and if they have any dirt on them, such as drug or alcohol issues, criminal problems, mental health issues, prior issues of domestic violence, even if you deserve the “parent of the year award,” if you have made a bad choice in picking a new boyfriend or girlfriend, their past is going to haunt you now and hurt your case for having placement of your children.
I have seen litigants in divorce cases lose a custody battle, solely on the basis that they made a poor choice in moving in with a new boyfriend or girlfriend, and more importantly, that the choice they made in the new significant other is a very bad choice. You also expose yourself to your spouse and their attorney in court saying you two are having sex in front of the children or the children heard things from your bedroom and were scared and walked in on you. You can deny it all you want, but you are exposing yourself to all of these types of arguments in the courtroom.
Even if your spouse tells you they don’t have a problem with it, if you ask, don’t do it. They can quickly change their mind, deny later they agreed, or have their divorce lawyer talk them out of it. Just like a shark smells blood in the water, your spouse and their divorce attorney will smell blood in your case, and go for your jugular if they can, to kill your custody case.
You can explain it away all you want, such as “I can’t afford to be on my own,” “they are really good with the kids,” “my children love this person,” “he/she is better to them than my spouse is,” “they won parent of the year award,” “they have custody of their own children,” but in court, the court commissioner, or the trial judge or the court appointed guardian ad litem is not going to see it that way. The way everyone else is going to see it is that you made a very bad mistake, that you put yourself first and your own selfish interests over that of the best interests of the children, and throughout the entire divorce case, you are going to be fighting an uphill battle to try to regain equal footing when it comes to placement of your children. It is ill advised and you are pretty much securing your spouse wins the custody battle against you by moving in with a significant other in the middle of the divorce. Unlike the Nike slogan, “just don’t do it!”
If you have questions about custody of minor children, contact one of our family law attorneys.
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