Significant Other Sees Kids

One of the most challenging issues for parents after a divorce or breakup is introducing a new partner to the children. When it’s your partner, you can decide whether the time is right, and how your partner will interact with your children. But what about when it’s your ex-spouse who has a new partner, and you object to them seeing your children. Can you (and should you) get a court order to keep someone away from your child?

A great deal depends on the facts of the situation, but in general, during their parenting time, your ex has the right to decide who will see your child — just as you do during your own parenting time.

In your mind, you may have a number of reasons you might want to keep your ex’s new partner from spending time with your children:

  • The relationship is new, and you don’t want your child confused by an endless parade of new partners who appear and then disappear
  • The new partner was cheating with your spouse, leading to the breakdown of the marriage, and you are resentful and angry
  • You are worried your child will like the new partner better than you
  • You are worried that the new partner is abusive
  • Your ex doesn’t pay as much attention to your child when the new partner is around
  • The new partner is exposing your child to things that are inconsistent with your values
  • The new partner is interfering with your parenting time or bad-mouthing you to your child

Typically there are two points at which you might try to exercise control over when and how your child meets your ex’s new significant other: when you’re making your custody agreement and the question is hypothetical, and when you’re dealing with a real-life situation and a problem arises.

Planning for the Possibility of a New Partner

In many ways, the best time to deal with the issue of an ex’s new partner seeing your child is while the situation has not yet happened — in other words, while you are negotiating your divorce or custody arrangement. So long as neither of you is in another relationship at that time, you can decide how new partners will interact with your children based on your values, without your feelings about a particular person clouding your judgment.

It’s wise to plan for this issue in advance, since it’s very likely that one or both of you will, at some point, have a new relationship. Just remember that the same rules that will bind your ex will also bind you. Being too restrictive may protect your kids from negative influences, but it’s just as likely to complicate everyone’s life.

Family mediation is a great way to work with your spouse to identify your shared values, concerns, and ways to address them. Rather than making rigid rules that may not fit a situation when it eventually arises, you can focus on your child’s best interests and come up with creative solutions.

Things to think about when crafting an agreement:

  • At what point should a child be introduced to a new partner? A certain length of time into the relationship? A certain relationship milestone, like a decision to date exclusively?
  • How and when should the ex-spouse in the new relationship communicate to the other parent about plans to introduce the child to a new partner?
  • Should a new partner be permitted to stay overnight at the ex’s home when the child is staying over?
  • Should a new partner be allowed to babysit the child? What circumstances would make it inappropriate for a new partner to babysit the child or be alone with them?

Minnesota law generally presumes that each parent is able to decide who will be around the child during their own parenting time. That includes who will babysit the child. If you don’t want the other parent demanding the right to approve any babysitter you choose, you will need to be flexible, too.

That said, sometimes you may have a genuine and legitimate concern about your child’s well-being around an ex’s new partner. In that case, what do you do, especially if you don’t have a previous agreement?

Protecting Your Child From an Ex’s New Partner

We’ve all heard the horror stories in the news: a parent’s new boyfriend or girlfriend harms their young child, or worse. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen in the vast majority of cases, but it’s common enough that it is a legitimate concern for parents. When can you get a court order to keep someone away from your child, and what should you do if you can’t?

If your ex is violating the terms of your child custody order or parenting plan regarding contact between your child and a new partner, you can go back to court to try to enforce the order. If there is nothing in your order prohibiting your ex’s partner from spending time with your child, you need to figure out if there is another legal basis for keeping them apart.

If the new partner is likely to endanger your child’s emotional or physical health or impair the child’s emotional development, a court may restrict the partner’s access to your child. You will need to provide the court with evidence on which to make that decision. Circumstances in which a court could choose to restrict access include:

  • The partner, after consuming drugs or alcohol, drove with the child in the car
  • The partner has physically or sexually abused the child
  • The partner has given the child access to drugs or weapons
  • The partner is a registered sex offender or has been convicted of child abuse
  • The partner repeatedly tells a young child that you don’t love them, and/or that they are the child’s new parent

Minnesota courts are generally reluctant to restrict a parent’s ability to determine who will spend time with their child unless it is clear that such a restriction is in the child’s best interests. If you believe that your ex-spouse’s partner poses a risk to your child, you should immediately speak with an experienced Minnesota family law attorney to discuss your options.

Whether you are planning ahead for future relationships or dealing with a current crisis involving an ex-spouse’s partner’s access to your child, we invite you to contact Mundahl Law to schedule a consultation.

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