Parenting plans are often drafted while both parents are single (or on their way to being single). As they negotiate their plan, the parents consider their lives as single parents. They want to discuss how much time they will have with their kids, and what holidays they will not have their kids. One issue that few parents bring up is how to address the other parents’ new significant others. Once they start thinking about it they usually have two concerns: (1) parents often worry about their kids being introduced to the other parent’s significant other too soon, and thus experiencing a revolving door of significant others, or (2) parents worry that the children will now spend all their time with the new significant other, rather than their parent. Here are two ways that some parents choose to address their concerns:
Right of First Refusal: This is a potential way to limit the time the children may spend with the parent’s significant other (or anyone else other than the parent for that matter). This is usually accomplished by including a clause within the parenting plan that requires that if the children are to be with someone other than the parents (or another agreed upon adult) the parent not scheduled to have time with the child shall have the right to choose to have the kids with them, or may refuse that time and the kids may go to someone else of the residential parent’s choice (in the present example, his or her significant other).
Limitations on Introductions: Parents can choose to set limitations within the parenting plan as to when significant others may be introduced to the children. They may say that the parent must have known or dated the person for a certain length of time prior to meeting the kids.
The main problem in cases where parents choose to include the aforementioned provisions in their parenting plan is that while they want the provisions to apply to the other parent, they aren’t as excited about having the provision apply to them. Another issue is enforcement; most of the activity that the above clauses attempt to regulate is related to activities that happen inside the other parent’s home. It is often difficult, or impossible, to prove that the other party had the children stay with their significant other while they worked all day, or that the other party invited a romantic interest over for dinner with the kids after only a few dates.
It should be mentioned that some parents choose to do nothing. These parents are often those that trust that the other parent will be a good parent. While they might not like the idea of their former spouse dating someone new, they have faith that the other parent would not involve someone in the children’s lives in a way that would be damaging to the kids.
Parenting plans are not one-size-fits-all. They should be tailored to the needs of a family. Some parents need issues related to significant others addressed in their parenting plans, others do not. What’s most important is that you do what is right for you and your kids.
If you have questions about parenting plans or any other family law issue, please contact us today.