Dating During Divorce and Custody

How Dating Affects the Children and Your Case

Should you date during your divorce?

    You CAN date during your divorce.  That does not mean you SHOULD. We discussed some problems with dating during your divorce in a previous blog.  But some recent court experience has illuminated another aspect of dating during divorce.  It affects how the courts issue custody orders. 

The Court’s Concerns About Dating During Divorce

Texas law says the divorce court’s first priority must be the best interest of the children.  Before any property issues or financial arguments, the safety and welfare of the children gets addressed.  The court must consider the safety of the kids, as well as their emotional development when ordering custody.

Dating during the divorce brings a new person into the lives of the children.  The courts don’t take this concept lightly when determining custody.  Certainly, a new love interest who poses a danger to the kids complicates your case.  Dating a registered sex offender or someone who has a recent criminal record puts you at a disadvantage when seeking a fair custody order.  A love interest with a known drinking or drug problem also poses a threat to your case.  No one you date should cause the court to question your decision-making or your focus on your kids’ safety.

However, even if your new love interest is a great person, the court will be concerned.  The divorce itself poses danger to the children because of all the change the kids face due to grown-up problems.  Courts consider adding a new person into the mix to be more change for the kids—more stress.

How the Courts Protect the Children

Dangerous Partners: Sex offenders, Violent Criminals, Known Drunks and Illegal Drug Users and Custody Orders

When the new boyfriend or girlfriend poses an actual danger, the courts issue custody orders for the safety of the kids.  These orders often include provisions that prevent contact between the kids and the new boyfriend or girlfriend.  At a minimum expect to completely separate your kids from your new boyfriend or girlfriend.

If the court sees your new love interest as a serious threat to your kids, things could get worse. Your fitness as a parent comes into question when you choose to bring your kids around a dangerous person.  We have seen the courts give primary custody to the other parent over this issue.

Non-Dangerous Partners and Custody Orders

Even when the new love interest is a good person, the courts try to protect the kids.  The courts recognize that new boyfriends or girlfriends are a reality in many cases.  Even if there is no danger posed by the new love interest, the courts still often limit contact in custody orders.

Provisions preventing the new partner from staying overnight while you are in possession of the children cause a hassle.  As a rule, the courts don’t mind if you date during the divorce.  Just don’t bring your new lover around the kids when you are in possession.  But see how dating during a divorce can affect the property issues of a case.

The age of the kids sometimes affects the court in this situation too.  Teens who know what’s going on in the divorce don’t concern the court like small children do.   The court that might order no contact between the small kids and the new lover might not react at all if the kids are 17.  Still, the safest policy is to keep your new love life away from your kids if you date during your divorce.

Special Considerations: Cohabiting by Necessity

It sometimes occurs that living with a new lover is the answer to logistical problems in a divorce.  In some divorces, a spouse has nowhere to live than to the home of a now boyfriend or girlfriend.  Certainly, moving out of the marital residence often makes sense.  Living under a bridge doesn’t, especially if taking the children along is important.

If you are moving out of the residence during the divorce, moving in with a lover may be an option. Understand that bringing the kids around your love interest can damage your case.  But if you have nowhere else to go, and can’t leave the kids with your spouse, then your lawyer will have an uphill battle in court.

We always recommend retaining a lawyer to help with your divorce.  However, if you are dating during the divorce, or cohabit with a love interest, you need a skilled lawyer on your side for sure.  If you want to date during the divorce, your case will benefit from having a lawyer.

Youngblood Law - divorce innovationLogoOur Firm

Youngblood Law, PLLC is a Fort Worth, Texas family law firm focusing on helping people get on with their new life by getting done with their old life.  This essay is intended for educational use only, and is not a replacement for competent legal counsel.  If you are facing a family law matter, we recommend obtaining competent legal counsel like Youngblood Law, PLLC.  For more information contact us at 817-601-5345, find us on the web at www.youngblood-law.com.

Paul Youngblood #beforeyournext #lawfw #youngbloodlaw

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