Murfreesboro family law attorney

Can I Keep My Children from Being Around My Ex-Spouse’s New Boyfriend/Girlfriend?

When parents go through a divorce, that divorce impacts the children as well as the parents. Hopefully, once the divorce process is final, everyone involved settles into their “new normal.” If one parent enters into a new relationship, however, it can disrupt that new normal. If you do not want your children around that new person, it can become a serious problem. A Murfreesboro custody lawyer at Bennett, Michael & HornsbyMurfreesboro family law attorney explains your legal options if you want to keep your children away from your ex-spouse’s new romantic partner.

Custody Basics in Tennessee

When the parents of minor children go through a divorce, “custody” of the minor children of the marriage is one of the issues that must be addressed. Ideally, the parents can agree on the terms; however, if the parents are unable to agree, the court will need to decide issues related to custody and visitation.

In Tennessee, the terms “custody” and “visitation” are no longer used by the courts. Instead, the parent with whom the child lives most of the time is known as the “Primary Residential Parent (PRP)” and the other parent is referred to as the “Alternative Residential Parent (ARP).” Likewise, “visitation” is now referred to as “parenting time.” A parenting time schedule must be included in the finalized Parenting Plan. The terms of a Parenting Plan become orders of the court and a parent risks court sanctions for violating the order.

The New Person in Your Ex’s Life

Inevitably, one (or both) parent meets someone new after the divorce is finalized. If your ex-spouse begins a new relationship first, you may go through a range of emotions yourself. More importantly, you may not be thrilled with the idea of your children meeting the new boyfriend/girlfriend. Although you may be tempted to try and prevent that meeting, you need to understand your legal position first.

It is unusual for the terms of a divorce to specifically address such a situation. If your final decree is like most, meaning it is silent on the issue, you likely cannot prevent your former spouse from introducing the new girlfriend/boyfriend to your children. The law begins with the presumption that each parent gets to make day to day decisions when they are exercising parenting time with the children. That would include what adults to allow near the children. 

What If I Am Worried about the New Boyfriend/Girlfriend?

If there are red lights going off that cause you to legitimately worry about the safety of your children around the new boyfriend/girlfriend, you may have legal options. Simply disliking the new person is not sufficient; however, if you genuinely believe the new boyfriend/girlfriend is abusing (physically, emotionally, sexually) your children or that your former spouse and the new partner are engaging in inappropriate activities (drug/alcohol abuse or sexual activity) around the children you should consult with an experienced custody lawyer right away. You should also contact the appropriate law enforcement agency and/or report your concerns to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services if you believe the children are in danger.

You may also have legal options, such as modifying the terms of your existing Parenting Plan. To modify your existing plan, you must prove a “change of circumstances which materially alters the child’s well-being.” While a new boyfriend/girlfriend who is detrimental to your children could qualify as the necessary change in circumstances, judges are reluctant to tell a parent who can and cannot be around their children. To get a judge to prevent contact with the new person, you will need to convince the judge that doing so is in the best interest of the children. 

Contact a Murfreesboro Custody Lawyer

If you have additional questions about how to prevent your children from spending time around an ex-spouse’s new boyfriend/girlfriend in Tennessee, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro custody lawyer to discuss your legal options. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.

Dinah Michael