It’s hard when you first hear about your ex’s new partner and discover that s/he is dating again after your divorce or legal separation. It can be especially nerve-racking to discover that your ex’s new girlfriend/boyfriend is frequently around your child(ren) or babysitting during your ex’s parenting time.
You may be…
- concerned about your kids getting attached to your ex’s new partner;
- worried about the impact s/he will have on the kids;
- uncomfortable with the notion of a stranger ‘parenting’ your child;
- hurt because it seems too soon;
- angry and feel disrespected because your child (rather than your ex) informed you;
The point is, as a parent, it’s completely understandable that you’d be anxious about the appropriateness of your child(ren) meeting and spending time with your ex’s girlfriend(s)/boyfriend(s). Therefore, it’s not uncommon to hear questions, such as,
“Is my ex’s girlfriend/boyfriend allowed around my kids?”
However, the answer to whether your ex’s new partner can be around the child(ren) depends upon your specific situation. Continue reading to learn when your ex’s partner can and can’t be around your kid(s).
Ex’s New Partner Allowed Around Child
In most cases, the answer to the question above will be, “Yes.” Typically, an ex’s girlfriend/boyfriend is allowed to be around the children and/or babysit during the other parent’s parenting time.
Why Can Ex’s New Partner Be Around Kids?
The reason why your ex’s new partner can be around the kids is because s/he has parenting time and thus, has certain parental rights. In Minnesota, it’s presumed (absent evidence to the contrary) that each parent is competent to raise the child and make decisions regarding who can be around the child. This is a parental right in Minnesota for parents who have parenting time.
Therefore, as long as the other parent has parenting time, s/he may generally decide who interacts with the child when in that parent’s care. Thus, this includes being able to decide to have a new boyfriend/girlfriend around the kids.
It’s also similar to the idea that, unless otherwise specified previously in a divorce decree or other order, both parents have the right to select a babysitter of his/her choosing for the child during his/her parenting time. Therefore, unless specified differently in your parenting plan, decree, or parenting time order, an ex can usually have his/her new partner babysit as well.
When Ex’s New Partner Can’t Be Around Kids
However, there are circumstances when an ex’s girlfriend/boyfriend can’t be around the children and/or babysit. The first obvious circumstance has been mentioned already. That being, if there is a current parenting plan, parenting time order, or decree that prohibits the ex’s partner from being around the kids and/or babysitting. If that’s the case, then having the ex’s new girlfriend/boyfriend around the kids or babysitting would be a violation of the court order. (Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check and know what your current order says regarding the matter.)
If you don’t have a parenting plan, decree, or parenting time order, or there isn’t anything written regarding the matter in your current parenting plan, decree or parenting time order, there are circumstances when an ex’s girlfriend/boyfriend can’t be allowed around or babysit the children. However, (and this is very important) even under these such circumstances (listed below), a court order is needed to enforce the restriction.
Circumstances When Ex’s New Partner Could Be Restricted
Under circumstances where the ex’s partner is likely to:
- endanger the child’s physical or emotional health, or
- impair the child’s emotional development,
a judge may decide to restrict an ex’s new partner from babysitting or being around the child. (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 518.175, Subdivision 1, b & Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 518.175, Subdivision 5, 1).
When the child’s life is endangered…
A court order could place restrictions on an ex’s new partner if there is a significant risk that the ex’s boyfriend/girlfriend threatens the child’s physical or emotional health. For example, a judge could restrict an ex’s partner from being around the child, if s/he physically, emotionally or sexually abused the child. In fact, choosing to expose a child to a recently registered sex offender could potentially jeopardize a parent’s custody and parenting time. In addition, a judge may decide a court order is needed to prohibit an ex’s partner from babysitting after the ex’s partner was driving drunk with the child. Lastly, gross neglect of the child when in the ex’s partner’s care, could also result in prohibiting the ex’s partner from being allowed to babysit.
When there are developmental risks to the child…
If the child is particularly young and there is a concern regarding the child receiving conflicting messages regarding who his/her parent is, the ex’s partner could pose developmental risks to the child. In this case, the other parent may try to get a court order that would prohibit the ex’s boyfriend/girlfriend from spending the night or being allowed to visit during the ex’s parenting time.
Court Order Restricting Ex’s New Partner
If your child’s life is endangered or there are developmental risks to your child because of your ex’s boyfriend/girlfriend, it’s important to address the issue immediately. In fact, in Minnesota, if either parent makes specific allegations that parenting time by the other parent places the child(ren) in danger of harm, the court needs to schedule a hearing as soon as possible. (Minnesota Statutes Chapter 518.175, Subdivision 5, D).
However, Minnesota judges have a lot of discretion when it comes to deciding to restrict an ex’s boyfriend/girlfriend from being around the child. Therefore, it’s not enough to just say, (for example) that the ex’s partner is dangerous, and thus, shouldn’t be allowed around the child. Instead, the other parent needs to show (using very specific examples and facts) how the ex’s partner is dangerous to the child. In such cases, it can be highly advantageous to hire a family law attorney.