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How Your Ex’s New Relationship May Change Your Parenting Plan

March 24, 2022

A common, but less discussed divorce question is how a new relationship may change your parenting plan that you and your ex set up. In this month’s blog we look at legitimate reasons to be concerned about your ex’s new significant other. We’ll also talk about issues you may want to address when developing your parenting plan to head off potential problems later. Finally, we offer advice on when it’s time to talk with a divorce mediator to amend your parenting plan. 

First, what are NOT legitimate reasons to be concerned about your ex’s new love interest? 

Not liking the ex’s new partner isn’t a valid reason to disagree on child custody. There must be a significant reason to believe it would be detrimental to the children to be around to this new boyfriend/girlfriend.

Other reasons that are not valid when looking at changing a parenting plan include your concern that your child(ren) are becoming too close to him or her. Or maybe you don’t appreciate being kept in the dark. Maybe you found out about this person from your kids and not your ex. Unfortunate, yes, but not enough reason to involve outside parties. 

What are legitimate reasons to be concerned about your ex’s new relationship? 

Obviously, some causes for concern that may warrant amending the parenting plan include things like: the significant other has a criminal record, abuses drugs and or alcohol, or displays anger/violence around the children.

If the new partner is preventing you from being able to parent your children by not allowing you to speak with them or pick them up when it’s been agreed upon, that is also an issue. If your child’s physical or mental health is threatened by this person, that also rises to the level of getting a third party involved. 

Q: What if your child(ren) are being watched by this new partner when your ex is not present? 

A: Unless you included language to prevent this in your parenting plan, this is completely within your ex’s parental rights. Each of you has the  right to select a babysitter of his/her choosing for the child during your parenting time.

Issues you may want to address in your parenting plan to head off problems with new partners

Begin with the broad question, What happens when either of us enters a new relationship? 

As part of the development of your parenting plan, it is prudent to discuss issues that could negatively impact your co-parenting relationship with your ex. Issues such as:

  • When/how to discuss the parent’s new relationship with the child(ren)-should we do it jointly?
  • When to introduce the children to the new partner?
  • Is it acceptable for the significant other to spend the night during our parenting times?
  • What about roommates (non-romantic)? Should there be a background check? Other rules?
  • What if your ex wants to take the kids on vacation with the new significant other?
  • Is it okay for the SO to join in family birthday parties/celebrations for the kids?
  • What about the SO attending the kid’s extracurricular activities/other school functions?
  • What about vaccination beliefs?

A clearly written parenting plan provides parents and children with predictability and consistency; it also can prevent future conflict.  If you have a good relationship with the other parent, you may feel that you do not need a detailed plan. Even so, a parenting plan will be your guide if your relationship becomes less cooperative in the future. 

Advice when conflict arises with your ex's new partner

  • Deal directly with the co-parent: If your ex’s significant other is interfering with your parenting plan or intercepting communication between you and your ex-spouse, or disparaging you or your parenting style in front of the children, it is crucial to address this directly with your ex-spouse, not the significant other.  You and your ex are the two who are responsible for all things related to your children.  
  • Have consistent and open communications with the children:  It is important, regardless of the emotions around the co-parent’s new relationship, to be positive and accepting when communicating with your kids about their other parent’s new relationship.  Remember, the way in which you and your ex handle your divorce and the other life situations that are certain to arise, are the greatest lesson about relationships that you can teach your children.  Kids are perceptive!

When to talk to a divorce mediator about your ex's new partner

Obviously, if the child(ren) are in any type of danger, it would be important to involve a lawyer or the authorities, depending on the nature of the issue.  

If you are noticing a deterioration in your co-parenting and/or communication with your ex, or if the children are expressing concerns that you determine may be valid, that is when it would be important to reach out to a mediator to discuss the issues before conflict escalates. You may not necessarily even have to amend the parenting plan. Just having a meeting with your mediator could reveal solutions you may have not thought of yet. 

If you are noticing any of these red flags related to your partner’s new love interest, give us a call to look over your parenting plan. While we can’t foresee every possible scenario, we can ensure that your child’s best interests are front and center and not being pushed on the back burner by your ex’s new partner. Give us a call at 303 468-5626 to discuss your individual situation. 

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At Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado, we have a team of seasoned Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA) who provide a cost-effective, respectful mediation process that allows couples and families to rebuild a secure post-divorce future.
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