After experiencing divorce or separation, it is entirely common for you to (eventually) want to begin dating again. However, after a child experiences their parents’ divorce or separation, it is common for them to NOT want you to begin dating.
It’s tricky terrain when you meet someone special and want to introduce that person to your kids.
Every relationship and every family will differ in what they consider to be the appropriate time to make those important new introductions.
But academics and professionals agree, making those introductions too early can be detrimental to your relationship with your children, your ex-partner, and even potentially your new partner.
Below are some tips that we consider can help you navigate introducing your new partner to your children:
- Better late
You should try your best to avoid introducing your kids to what could be (or is at that point) a short-term relationship. Ideally, you would have had a serious discussion with your new partner about their expectations regarding your children and have passed that “honeymoon” stage in your relationship.
Although younger kids mightn’t mind as much, older kids may still be processing the demise of your relationship with their other parent. It would only cause further mistrust and frustration if you were to introduce a new partner too soon, only for that relationship to end a few weeks later.
Some experts suggest a minimum of six months, but some suggest longer. It will come down to being perceptive about your children’s needs as well as the stability of the new relationship, and how long you have been separated from the children’s parent may also play a big part in that, as may whether their other parent has re-partnered and introduced their new partner to the children.
- Co-parents for life
Whilst your romantic relationship with the other parent of your children may have ended, your relationship with them as a co-parent won’t.
It is important (however awkward) to discuss introducing your new partner to the children with your co-parent. If you don’t, it’s likely they’ll hear secondhand from the kids about your new partner anyway. As you can imagine, that would be counter-productive to your relationship with your ex and then impact your ability to co-parent effectively.
Court Orders or Parenting Plans often anticipate when it is appropriate for a parent to introduce their new partner to the kids. Although it may result in an uncomfortable conversation with your ex before you’ve even re-entered the dating scene, we recommend discussing with your ex what you consider to be an appropriate time frame for the introduction of new partners early on. It may eventuate that your ex moves on first, so it is important to consider what you would also be comfortable with should the situation be reversed.
Some common orders or parenting plans provision dealing with new partners can include:
- “The parties shall not introduce a new romantic partner to the children unless they have been in a relationship with that person for at least 3 months”
- “Until further order and without admission as to need, the parties be and are hereby restrained from:
- Introducing the children to a new partner in circumstances where that person has been in a relationship with the relevant party for less than 6 months.
- Your children should always come first
It goes without saying that your children should always come first. Whilst it may be a difficult and slow process introducing your new partner to your children, you must do so at the pace your children can handle.
It is important to remain sensitive to their needs and ensure that they are comfortable enough to voice their feelings with you.
Whilst you will undoubtedly feel very excited and hopeful about your new relationship, it is important to remember that almost invariably your child or children will not, as, from their perspective at the least, they will potentially lose precious alone time with you, and no longer be your favourite person, at the most they may be harbouring (however unlikely) hopes that you and their parent will find a way back together, and your announcement of a new romantic interest may destroy those dreams.
Whilst there are no “right answers” concerning the handling of new partners and kids, we have assisted many families tackle these difficult conversations and eventually see eye to eye.
If you or anyone you know is currently experiencing a family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Lynn & Brown.
About the Author: Jasmine Trewin is a family lawyer who has completed both a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Journalism). Jasmine spent time working at the Federal Court of Australia before joining Lynn & Brown Lawyers in August 2021.