We have all heard the story of the evil step-mother, and when it comes to custody cases in Pennsylvania, often times one parent's new "paramour" causes tension and leads to litigation. Sometimes, as a result of hurt feelings, lingering resentment or lack of closure, one parent will use the other parent's new relationship as a scape-goat for the problems with custody and co-parenting. However, with the holiday season kicking into high gear, it is almost inevitable that people who have begun new relationships will want to introduce their new significant others to their families. This includes their children.
In a perfect world, separated parents would be able to work together to discuss their new relationships and make joint plans about when they should introduce the new people in their lives to their children. Considerations in making such decisions would include the age of the children and any history involving the significant other. For example, if the new relationship played a role in the demise of the previous relationship, or the new partner has a pre-existing relationship with the family, there may be a need to consider different plans to introduce the child to the new significant other.
Unfortunately, we and our clients do not live in a perfect world, and it is very likely that the introduction of a new person into the family unit will cause tension. Although it is advisable to discuss the fact that you are considering introducing someone to your child with the other parent, it is not always possible to reach a consensus on the questions of when and how. However, from the perspective of a custody attorney, it is always better to give your ex a head's up you are seeing someone who you think is important enough to meet the child or children so they are not caught off guard and you do not end up in motions court over the issue.
If your co-parenting situation has broken down substantially, and you do not feel that you will be able to make the call of when to introduce a child to your significant other jointly with your ex, it is important to remember to put your child first. Make sure you do not introduce every person you meet to your child so they do not feel overwhelmed. Instead, wait until you know the relationship is going somewhere. This is especially true if you have younger children, as they are likely to become attached quickly to people who are around often.
If you'd like more advice regarding this and other topics, please feel free to contact our western Pennsylvania office today!