Taking on a new relationship after an agonizing separation or divorce can be difficult. It gets further complicated if there are children involved. Despite swearing off dating for good, you might soon find yourself with a new partner, imagining a future with them. You want them to meet your children. At that point, it’s wise to start thinking of co-parenting with an ex and a new partner.
It’s essential to determine if you’re in good legal standing to get into a new relationship after a separation or divorce. You also should know how the new relationship affects your children concerning their other parent. A family law attorney can guide you if you want legal advice on setting healthy co-parenting boundaries.
What is Co-Parenting?
When you have been raising your children together with their biological parent, that equates to co-parenting. Co-parenting focuses purely on the children, and both parties have an equal responsibility. Both of you make decisions concerning the children and are responsible for looking after them.
The situation is a little more complex when you’re divorced or separated from the children’s biological parent, and there’s a new partner on either side. It can be hard to give a new person the responsibility for your children’s well-being. The children may also find it challenging to respect the authority of a step-parent.
That’s why it’s crucial to set healthy co-parenting boundaries to ensure everyone involved is happy with the arrangement.
The Legal Perspective on Co-Parenting
A family law attorney has many issues to address when dealing with parents trying to co-parent after a separation or divorce. Common problems include disparaging remarks by one parent in the presence of the children. One parent may feel like the other parent isn’t fulfilling their parenting obligations because their new partner takes all their attention away.
In most cases, the judges or attorneys will include provisions in the custody agreement to set up rules for each parent if such concerns exist. One gray area the law doesn’t address is when one parent starts dating or gets married to a new person. Some divorced couples agree to establish morality clauses in their custody agreements, touching on the issue of getting into new relationships.
For example, the parents may agree that neither will introduce the children to the new partner for a given period. Others determine that neither party can spend the night with their new partner while looking after the children. Creating such rules upfront is one way to set healthy co-parenting boundaries.
There are no hard and fast rules in setting co-parenting boundaries while in a new relationship, but it’s essential to have some guidelines. Here are a few to get you started.
Carefully Evaluate Your Co-Parenting Circumstances
It’s easy to forget that your children and ex-spouse may not be seeing your new relationship as a good thing. Moving too fast through the transition may significantly impact your children’s lives.
In evaluating your co-parenting situation, consider the following:
- Check with your family law attorney about the legitimacies of dating, especially if you’re separated at the moment. Laws vary widely, and you don’t want to get surprised or unknowingly affect your parenting schedule.
- Consider how much time has elapsed since your separation or divorce. Have your children had enough time to adjust to the breakup? While the situation is different for every family, it wouldn’t be best to add someone new into the co-parenting relationship while the children are yet to accept the new position.
- Be ready for reactions from your ex-partner. Have you discussed getting into new relationships with them and how that will affect your co-parenting relationships? How do you think they will react, and are you in a position to accept their disapproval of a new relationship until the children are a certain age?
- Evaluate your mental and emotional health. Don’t just get into a new relationship to hit back at your spouse. Ensure you’re in good mental and emotional standing and ready to involve the whole family in your dating life. You must be strong enough to support your children throughout the transition.
Talk to Your Children
Your children are the most crucial parties in this transition. Talk to them about your new partner before introducing them. Ensure you don’t force them to spend time together if the children aren’t comfortable with that and instead give them time to adjust.
Depending on the children’s age, you could ask them the kind of relationship they hope to have with your new partner once the connection is solid enough.
Know Your Boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries for co-parenting arrangements while in a relationship is also about your preferences. Consider how much of a parental role you’d like the new partner to have and the extent of their input in your children’s lives. For example:
- Would you be comfortable leaving your kids with your new partner?
- Would you allow your partner to discipline your children?
- Do you want your new partner to attend your children’s school meetings?
- Would you take parenting advice from your new partner?
Be honest with your new partner about your child and expectations. Let them know that your children will always be your priority. If your partner isn’t happy or comfortable with that, you may want to reconsider whether it’s the right relationship.
Setting Co-Parenting Boundaries, the Healthy Way
One freedom you have after a separation or divorce is to associate with whomever you choose, even as you continue caring for your children. Your partner may not be agreeable to this, so you must establish healthy co-parenting boundaries while in a new relationship. The most crucial thing is to ensure the children are free from harm and not subjected to anything inappropriate.
In creating a custody agreement with your ex-partner, it’s wise to involve a family law attorney for its legality. The legal team at Remington and Dixon is here to help. You can reach us online or by phone at 704-774-4620.
Co-Parenting and Divorce FAQs
How do you set up healthy co-parenting boundaries?
Can my ex-spouse dictate who is around my children?
Does my ex-partner have to meet my new partner?
Jennifer is a founding partner at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Jennifer concentrates her practice in the areas of family law, wills & estates, unemployment benefits appeals, and traffic. At Elon University School of Law, Jennifer was the vice president of the Public Interest Law Society and a member of the Family Law Society. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Elon University School of Law Field Placement Clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented clients in domestic violence court proceedings.