There’s nothing easy about divorce, especially when children are involved. Even when couples choose mediation or restorative divorce to maintain healthy relationships, it can be challenging when one parent moves on to a new partner. I hear from so many of my clients, “My ex has a new girlfriend,” and it sparks so many emotions. These include jealousy, resentment, anger, hurt, and anxiety.
One stressful aspect of an ex having a new girlfriend is how the kids will react, and how co-parenting could change. As a co-parent, how much influence should you have if your ex gets a new girlfriend or wife? The below applies to a new boyfriend or husband, as well.
Making Plans For “My ex has a new girlfriend”
It’s not unnatural for people to seek out new relationships after divorce. According to a Pew Research survey, 43% of Americans ages 25-34 are on a second marriage. One of the best times to deal with this eventuality is to consider how you’ll approach the situation before it happens. In other words, when you negotiate your divorce or child custody agreement, you may get to decide how a partner can and should interact with your child.
Divorce mediation is an excellent way for you and your spouse to identify common concerns and shared values. Instead of creating a long list of “rules,” you can decide through family mediation how you will navigate these situations and continue to focus on your child’s best interests. Remember, anything that will apply to your ex will also apply to you.
Things to consider when creating a co-parenting agreement include:
- Should overnight stays be permitted with a new partner at a parent’s home when the child is present?
- Should a new partner be permitted to babysit your child?
- Under what circumstances would it be inappropriate for a partner to be alone with your child?
As a parent, you are understandably concerned about your child’s welfare. But Illinois law generally presumes the right of each parent to decide who will be around their child during their parenting time. Unless you have a legitimate concern and want to open yourself up to equal scrutiny, you’ll want to be as flexible as possible.
Ways To Cope With “My Ex Has a New Girlfriend”
It can be unsettling to learn your ex has a new girlfriend or plans to remarry. If you’re still single, you might feel a bit jealous. When children are involved, the most challenging part is usually coming to terms with the idea that someone you didn’t choose will be involved with your kids. Here are several tips to help you cope with this radical change.
- Choose Acceptance — You may not like your ex’s new partner, but you’ll probably need to accept that they’ll be part of your child’s life moving forward. Worrying about something you can’t control is a recipe for unhappiness.
- Respect Boundaries — Unless you’ve established rules around new partners through child-centered mediation or there are some serious safety concerns, it’s important to stay in your lane. Listen to your children, but respect your ex’s boundaries.
- Value Your Role — If you’re worried about being replaced as a parent, don’t be. You will always be your child’s mother. A new partner is simply another adult in your child’s life who may turn out to be a fantastic influence.
When You Need To Protect Your Child From Your Ex’s New Partner
In a worst-case scenario, your ex’s new partner is a serious threat to the welfare and safety of your child. Fortunately, these situations are rare, but they do happen. As a parent, you can and should take action to protect your child. Again, remember this is worst case scenario and is not the case for all new partners.
If your ex violates the terms of your parenting plan or child custody order regarding contact between a new partner and your child, seek mediation immediately, so that you can go back to court to enforce the order if needed after mediation. If the new partner may endanger your child’s physical or emotional health, you might be able to skip mediation and seek a court order where the court may agree to restrict their access to your child.
Circumstances in which the court could choose to restrict access include(and there is admissible evidence for the Court to consider):
- The partner has physically or sexually abused the child
- The partner has been convicted of child abuse or is a registered sex offender
- The partner has driven with the child while impaired
- The partner has given the child access to weapons or drugs
- The partner is emotionally abusive, such as telling the child you don’t love them
If you believe your spouse’s partner poses a risk to your child or you would like to learn more about your options, you should speak with an experienced Illinois family law attorney.
Do You Have Questions About Your Custody Agreement?
If you believe your ex is violating an existing co-parenting or custody agreement because of a new partner, their home environment, or some other factor, you have several options. At Birt Family Law, we understand these can be sensitive matters. Give us a call at 630-891-2478 or contact us online to discuss starting mediation or your legal rights and options. From our office in Wheaton, we serve clients throughout DuPage County & Kane County, focusing on family-centered divorce and other family law matters.
Since 2003, Erin Birt has focused her practice of mediation and legal services in the areas of parent separation, child centered divorce, and parenting matters.
In 2010, Ms. Birt opened The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C. (known as Birt Family Law) to provide her clients a variety of alternative dispute resolution and divorce options. Prior to starting the firm, she was employed by several prominent family law firms including Fortunato, Farrell, Davenport & Arnold, Ltd. and Roberts and Associates, P.C. She clerked at Mayer, Brown & Platt, n/k/a Mayer Brown, Earl L. Neal and Associates, LLC, n/k/a Neal & Leroy, LLC, and the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Ms. Birt is also a certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor. Her clinical addiction counseling experience includes DUI risk education and counseling at The Family Connection and inpatient addiction counseling at Adventist Glen Oaks Hospital. Erin now uses her addiction counseling skills and experience to help separating parents, families, and teens effected by drugs or alcohol. Erin has been a presenter and trainer for the DuPage County Bar Association, International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Mediation Council of Illinois, and various mediation, counseling, or collaborative practice groups within Illinois and beyond.