Divorce opens the door to new romantic opportunities. When you have children, though, introducing a new partner or having your significant other sleep over during parenting time should be done thoughtfully and with respect to both your children and your co-parent. Here’s how to decide when and how to introduce a third party to your children.
Dating Before Divorce is Final
There is no mandatory separation period before you can file for divorce in Michigan. Still, couples separate while remaining legally married, making space for new romantic relationships to develop. Even when the complaint for divorce is filed immediately after the marriage relationship breaks down, the divorce process can take six months to a year to complete.
Dating before your divorce is final could have a significant impact on issues like custody, spousal support (alimony), and even property division. Even though Michigan is a “no-fault” divorce state, infidelity can be a factor in your property settlement and any claim for spousal support. Outside the courtroom, sexual or emotional affairs can make it harder to resolve your divorce amicably through collaborative divorce or mediation. It is better to wait until your divorce is final before beginning a new openly romantic relationship.
When and How to Introduce a New Romantic Partner to Your Children
Even after the divorce is final, you should avoid rushing into a new relationship if you have children. Divorce is difficult for children who may not fully understand relationships. It can also create hard feelings for your co-parent, which could result in a post-judgment custody or parenting time battle.
How to Bring Up a New Relationship to Your Co-Parent
Your co-parent should not learn about your new relationship from your children. Before you have your significant other sleep over during parenting time or even introduce them to your children, do your co-parent the courtesy of telling them first. This is not to say they have control over your dating life after divorce – they don’t. But giving them advanced notice can help smooth the way for your new relationship.
How to Introduce a New Romantic Partner
Your children’s first meeting with a new romantic partner shouldn’t be the morning after they slept over. Just like when you tell your children you’re getting a divorce, you should give your children plenty of time to process what you tell them. You could include your new “friend” in a short outing somewhere your children feel comfortable. Work up to telling your children you are dating this new person, and make sure they understand you are not asking them to stop loving their other parent.
When Can a Significant Other Sleep Over During Parenting Time?
You should only invite your significant other to sleep over during your parenting time after your kids are ready for it. Be certain you intend to have a long-term relationship with this person. Handle it in a mature way, openly and with an age-appropriate explanation. Avoid sneaking around your children and having them discover the situation by accident. Be ready to answer their questions honestly and sensitively.
Other Things to Think About for Dating After Divorce and Cohabitation
Each family is unique, and there could be other factors that affect your decisions about dating, having a significant other sleep over during parenting time, or moving in together with your new partner. Depending on the language in your court orders and the people involved, you may face:
- A motion to enforce a custody order that defines when and how a new partner is introduced
- A motion to modify custody or parenting time based on your “moral” decision to start dating
- A motion to prevent your children’s contact with new partner based on their history with drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, or other negative behavior
- A motion to modify or end spousal support based on cohabitation
At Thacker Sleight, we can help you decide when to introduce a new romantic partner, and resolve the potential disputes that arise through collaborative process, or by responding to a motion to modify custody and parenting time in court. Our experienced family law attorneys will guide you through talking to your children about your new relationship and connect you with coaches and therapists who can help. Contact us at 616.888.3810 to schedule a consultation. We will be there with and for you every step of the way.