A common and difficult to manage set of issues in custody and visitation cases arises when your former spouse or partner brings a new girlfriend or boyfriend into the picture. If you have concerns about the suitability of this new person to be around your children, what are your rights?

Honestly Identify The Problem

It can be hurtful to you when a new partner spends time with your ex spouse or partner and your children. Your personal feelings about this new relationship must be separated from concerns about the suitability of this new person to be around your children.

If your ex spouse or partner has visitation rights or you share legal or physical custody it will be difficult to find a way to ban the new partner from spending time with your children if your ex allows it. The court has determined the parameters of each of your parenting rights with regard to your precious children. If you or your ex choose to introduce new people to your children normally the court will not step in unless some other portion of the custody and visitation order is being violated.

Simply exposing your children to a new relationship will never be enough to limit contact with the new partner. You must identify the behaviors that you feel are unsuitable, show that these behaviors are occurring when your children are with your ex’s new partner and prepare to prove this in a court of law.

Behaviors That Could Make The Court Order Limitations On Who Your Ex Allows To Be With Your Children

The court order defines the best interests of the children with regard to the quality and quantity of time they spend with you and your ex. Rarely are other parties even considered or mentioned.

The following are examples of behaviors a parent might engage in that, if proven to the court’s satisfaction, could limit a parent’s visitation time with his or her children or guide the court to award sole custody to the other parent. By extension, if new partner engages in these behaviors while around your children the court could order both your and your ex to keep that individual away from your children:

A child or the children are abused physically by the person.

A child or the children are abused emotionally by the person.

(This abuse can include sexual abuse observed or demonstrated through medical exams or other types of physical injury observed or demonstrated through medical exams.)

A child or children observe the person using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol.

The person is proven to have criminal convictions that affect their ability to care for or be safe around the child or children.

A professional testifies that visits or living with the person has a negative effect on the child or children.

This is not an exhaustive list of actions that might lead a court to instruct a parent to keep their child or children away from a questionable partner, but it mentions the most common types of behaviors that rise to that level.

How To Manage Lesser Behaviors

As it will be difficult to prove that your ex’s new partner has behaviors that rise to the above levels you may be faced with negotiating with your children’s other parent to limit exposure to this new person. Consider talking with your ex about your concerns without rancor in a neutral setting. It may be useful to meet the new partner to ease your concerns.

If you used mediation or another alternative to the courts to work out your initial custody and visitation agreements with your ex inquire as to whether you could meet again within that system to work out some ground rules when new partners enter the equation. See if grandparents or other relatives would be willing to be present with the new partner during visits.

Limit Your Objections To Dangerous Behaviors

Part of dissolving the bonds with your ex must be a realization that others may become part of his or her life. That new relationship will at some point include and involve your mutual children. Remember that you also may become involved with someone new and consider how much power your want your ex to have in your decision about how you integrate that new relationship into your relationship with your children.

Keep The Children And Their Best Interests The Focus

If your children are in danger do whatever you must to keep them safe. If the new relationship is merely awkward to them, do what you can to ease their fears as you and your ex continue building your separate lives. Work hard to know the difference and always aspire to cooperate with your ex if possible for the good of the children.