At some point during or after your divorce, your former spouse may begin a new relationship. It can be difficult for many reasons to deal with this situation. If you have children, you may be particularly concerned about how this new person will affect your parent-child relationship. For example, if you object to this person being a part of your children’s lives, do you have the right to keep him/her away from them?
There are many reasons why you may not want your children to spend time with this new person. Maybe the person is a bad influence on your children or maybe you feel it’s wrong for children to develop emotional attachments to people unless there is a serious relationship between your ex and this person.
As discussed in a previous post, you must be careful about taking actions that interfere with your former spouse’s relationship with your children. Barring something truly dangerous to the children, New York judges feel that you both have a right to associate with whomever you decide and to introduce those individuals to your children. If you try to keep your children away from your spouse because he/she is including another person, that can be construed as interfering in the parent-child relationship. In addition, if you criticize your ex or his/her new partner in front of your children, this may also be considered interfering in the parent-child relationship because it is seen as attempting to poison the relationship between your ex-spouse and child.
As a result, even if you feel you are justified in your actions, you may risk custody and visitation of them by interfering in the other parent’s relationship with your children. In fact, you must avoid any actions that could be seen as parental alienation. Parental alienation occurs when a child refuses to see their other parent and it is demonstrated that your behaviors created or exacerbated that child’s animosity towards his/her other parent.
Courts in New York will protect the children if there is something to protect them from, such as abuse or neglect. For example, your ex-spouse’s new partner has a drug, alcohol, or mental health problem or is violent or abusive with the children. As with any custody matter, the court will consider many factors, but the health and safety of the child is the paramount concern.
If you are worried about the presence of your ex’s new partner in your children’s lives, you should document instances of troubling behavior and consult an attorney to discuss how to address your concerns. Developing appropriate proof is essential to protecting your rights and your children especially if abuse or neglect is involved. Contact us for advice on how to best handle your dispute with your former spouse.