Now that the Holidays are coming up, we often encounter an issue where new significant others or spouses will be introduced to the children during the Holidays. Depending on the stage in the breakdown of the marriage that the divorce was filed, the new significant other may come at a time where there are still a lot of emotions involved. Other times, the parties have since moved on and they understand that there are new people in both of their lives.
For those parties who are still going through a divorce after a short period of separation, it is important to know how to approach the issue of new significant others. Although there is no law directly on this issue, the standard is “best interests” of the minor children. I have been told by several clients that the required parenting class that every divorced parent must take advises to wait at least six months after a divorce or separation prior to introducing a new significant other. However, it is important to know the dynamic of your family to determine whether a shorter or longer period of time is appropriate. If your children have only recently found out about the divorce, it can be pretty traumatic to know that their mom or dad is seeing someone else. It can also be heartbreaking if they believe the divorce occurred because of that person.
However, if your children have known for a while that there was no married and for all intents and purposes you and your spouse are separated, they may be more prepared to meet a new significant other in a shorter period of time. It is also important to know how this introduction occurs. I have seen cases where the first introduction has occurred as quickly as telling the children someone else is moving in with their new step-siblings. That is probably not the best idea. However, during the Holidays especially, it is a good idea to introduce them as friends or family friends at a family party so the children can familiarize themselves with this person. As they start to see more of the person, they will be less shocked and more welcoming when the introduction as the new boyfriend or girlfriend occurs.
It is also important to have common sense. If you are the noncustodial parent, you should remember the visits are for you and your children and not an opportunity to combine a date with your visitation. In conclusion, although there aren’t any set rules on this issue, you should use your best judgment based on the facts in your case and the emotional state of your children in how and when to introduce new significant others to your children.