For divorced or never married parents who are no longer together, there will likely come a time when one or both parents choose to introduce the children to a new dating partner. It is also common for one or both parents to remarry, adding stepparents to an already complicated co-parenting situation.
While most parents make good decisions regarding who they bring around their children, it is not uncommon for a parent to be concerned about the impact the other parent’s relationships are having on the children. Sometimes, the concern is that multiple dating partners are abruptly entering and exiting the other parent’s home with little or no explanation to the child. Other times, the concern is that the dating partners are not appropriate persons to be around children due to criminal history, drug use, or other reasons. With stepparents, there are often issues with appropriate boundaries on what a stepparent should and should not do.
Even if there is not a new significant other in the picture at the time of the divorce, you can proactively plan for when that time comes. When drafting a parenting plan, it is wise to contemplate what navigating future relationships will look like.
Here are some questions that may be important to discuss with your attorney and potentially your spouse when negotiating a parenting plan:
- How long and how serious should a relationship be before a dating partner is introduced to the children?
- Should the parents consider a prohibition against cohabitation or having overnight visitors prior to a specific time?
- Is there any basis to consider specific prohibitions of who can and cannot be around the children?
- Are there certain roles that should be reserved only for the parents and not for stepparents?
While it is important to set boundaries regarding significant others, it is also important to remember that your ex (and you!) most likely will move on to other relationships, and those relationships should not be used as weapons against the other parent with the children caught in the crossfire. A new relationship usually results in bringing in yet another person to love and care for your child. But every family is different, and so it is important for you to discuss with an attorney any concerns you may have with future dating relationships. Contact one of our experienced family law attorneys to schedule a consult on how you can craft a parenting plan that best protects the interests of your children based on your unique circumstances.
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