The new girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse is sure to cause a firestorm of controversy for the high-conflict ex-partner.
There is no specific time period when it is suddenly “okay” for your children to meet the new love interest in your life. Some “experts” believe 6-months into the relationship is sufficient. Some stick by the tried-and-true 1-year into the relationship. Still, some others believe that you shouldn’t even introduce the new romantic partner until after there is an engagement!
The bottom line is, focus on the children and their readiness. Keep in mind, as hard as this may seem to do, your own maturity level. That is to say, think about how you are going to conduct yourself in the company of the children. This new person is not their mom, their dad, or even a “replacement” for the ex-partner for the children. Does your romantic partner even think it’s a good idea? Are you prepared for the consequences of your actions?
After 6-months of our relationship, I chose to inform “Jane,” despite a very high conflict divorce and custody situation, that I was no longer going “out of my way” to avoid the children meeting Lexi. Throughout our relationship we were extra-careful with making plans and arrangements to enjoy each other’s company that virtually eliminated all risk of us encountering one another’s children. We did it very well. In any event, I thought it was time to consider that it could happen despite the best of planning and I didn’t want Jane to find out by “surprise.” She is their mother and she deserved to know, despite everything she has put us through.
The plan Lexi and I had stated at the outset of our relationship was 1-year minimum. We both felt strongly that way. Ultimately, it happened between 6-months and the 1-year mark due to an unexpected change in plans on Jane’s part that would facilitate the meeting happening.
There is no easy way to handle it. There is no way to predict how the children will become acclimated to the situation. You could probably go on and predict that your high-conflict ex will have a complete meltdown at the prospects of this next step in your post-divorce era. You can probably predict it will result in litigation. I won’t get into the wide variety of emotions a parent goes through under normal conditions for this page would get very long. The one protection you must offer your children it to avoid getting involved in a string of failed relationships, rebound or otherwise, which ends up with the children being introduced to a never-ending string of partners. This will only serve to introduce a new level of upset to their lives that are already full of change, upset, fear, and anxiety.
The purpose of this page is discuss the legal ramifications, both “preventive” and “reactive” that may be considered or might otherwise result when a new romantic partner comes into the mix.
We wouldn’t suggest going ahead and putting any clauses related to future relationships in your custody agreement. However, given the wide variety of potential religious convictions, moral concerns, and some other factors (including ones that aren’t fair or legitimate) – one partner or both may want to have what is often referred to as “morals clauses” built-into the forthcoming or existing custody agreement. We believe that there is legitimacy to having certain clauses put into the agreement provided that they are centered around the protection and well-being of the children and not a result of wanting to interfere in the relationship of the ex-partner.
On the surface, some clauses seem to prevent certain things believed to be detrimental to the children happening. The most common clause is one that prohibits the parents from having any “overnight guests of the opposite sex.” What a clause like this fails to take into account:
- What if one parent decides to engage in a relationship with someone of the same sex?
Well, perhaps one wants a clause that prohibits anyone “…unrelated adult from being an overnight guest…”
- Well, what constitutes “overnight?” If the moral concern is sexual activity between two consenting adults, if an adult leaves at 4AM and returns to the home at 6AM, then they haven’t stayed overnight, have they?
Well, perhaps they tighten that up by specifying that no unrelated adults are permitted in the home after 8PM on any given day?
- Well, any given day ends at 11:59PM and a new given day starts 1-minute later and the new romantic interest can show up at midnight or later and stay until 8PM.
Well, how about specifying between 8PM and 6AM the following day?
What is the purpose exactly of such clauses? What are we protecting the children from? Unmarried, co-habitating consenting adults who love each other? I mean, these same people can have sex wherever they want within the home, in any room they so choose, and do so between the hours of 6AM and 8PM given the last example we’ve posted.
The point is, these morals clauses are a complete pain-in-the-ass to have and even more cumbersome to enforce. But like many other situations, they’re a fine target of the overly litigious, high-conflict ex-partner.
We don’t think it’s unreasonable for a mutual clause that would require a minimum of 30-days or 60-days notice before a new romantic partner be permitted to move-in with a parent and their children, provided the focus is on making the transition as smooth as possible for the kids. This would allow for that parent and the children to obtain some counseling to discuss the forthcoming changes to ease the transition. It would allow for the concerned parent to obtain a background check on the person who will be spending such significant time and in regular, close proximity to the children.
These items are not unreasonable things to want to provide to an ex-partner and the other parent to your children, regardless of how unreasonable they are. The above paragraph reveals issues that pertain to the safety and well-being of the children. On the background check, you and your new romantic partner may want to just go ahead and be proactive and secure the background check on your own!
Obviously, this clause and other “morals clauses” would require significant discussion and planning no matter which party is trying to initiate them.
To close on a slightly humorous note (at least, that is our intent) – we laughed at the irony of a divorced parent trying to initiate “morals” clauses. Isn’t it generally looked upon as “immoral” to divorce in most religious circles?
If done properly, this isn’t about morals from our perspective. It’s about exercising care and caution when about to embark on another life change that will impact the children.