Divorcing parents are often faced with difficult situations involving their children. Often tense emotions can become heightened when parents begin introducing third parties that are now part of their separate lives. The other parent may raise opposition to third parties being introduced too soon and children may also experience confusion as well as tension from the other parent.
As with most issues that affect children, the courts encourage parents to use common sense and to try to forge a solution that is amenable to the parties' sense of what is appropriate for their children. In the rare events when this is not possible, the courts have intervened and established valuable guidelines to follow when considering when it is appropriate to introduce third parties and have them involved in the lives of the minor children.
In general, requests for a restriction on the presence of a third party during periods of custody or parenting time are governed by the best interest standard, with a general focus on the extent to which the third party's presence will cause harm or potential harm to the child. Given the dramatic changes in society and the significant increase in the number of single-parent households and blended families, most courts will refrain from taking a position that morality should factor into the court's decision in this instance. The court is much more focused on the risk of harm to a child from exposure to a third party. Therefore, if a third party has a criminal background, is abusive (either physically or emotionally), or has alcohol or drug issues that cause concern for the wellbeing of the children, the court can and should be prepared to intervene to limit the exposure by the minor children to such persons.
These situations can be difficult to navigate and certainly difficult for an interested party and parent to view rationally. If there are any doubts or concerns regarding the potential safety of the children around third parties, it is certainly advisable to discuss the situation with a family law professional to ascertain if anything can and should be done in the best interests of the children.
Posted by Elizabeth A. Calandrillo, Esq.