Statistically speaking, you will find love again. For many women in the midst of divorce and custody cases, there’s nothing further from their minds. For many others, though, love seems to find them – and follow them. Sometimes, even before their divorces are finalized. Some are determined to find love again, as quickly as possible. Some have reconnected with an old flame on social media. Some ask before they start up a relationship; some don’t mention it to me until they’ve already moved in together. But what are the implications, if you’re facing a custody case?
Obviously, you should tread very carefully, especially if you’re not yet divorced. The point of this article is discuss ramifications on custody, but there are also implications related to your divorce that you should consider. Technically, even if you’re already separated, and even if you’ve already drafted a written separation agreement, if you have sex with someone who isn’t your husband outside of your marriage, it is adultery.
I hate that word. It sounds so judge-y. But the law kind of is, and you should be aware of it. You are married until you’re divorced. When I put it that way, it sounds cut and dry, doesn’t it? Separated is not the same thing as divorced; in fact, it’s not even close. For more information on how adultery can impact a divorce, click here or give our office a call today to schedule a consultation one on one with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys.
Will having a new boyfriend hurt my custody case?
I’m not going to lie, a new boyfriend isn’t GOOD for your custody case. It’s not necessarily bad, either, on it’s face – depending on the facts involved.
Dump him — NOW
Is he a registered sex offender or a violent felon? Does he have or did he have a drug addiction of any kind? Does he have a criminal record beyond a parking ticket? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you should drop him like a hot potato. NOW. Seriously, the risk isn’t worth it.
Choose not to ditch him? Fine; after all, I’m not the boss of you. But don’t expect that there won’t be consequences. And you can bet your boots that your ex is going to do some digging and bring up every single little thing he can about your new paramour.
When judges make decisions in custody cases, they’re looking at the best interests of the child factors. Your decision to engage in a new relationship is going to be looked under that microscope. Are you putting your child’s interests first—or are you more interested in your new flame? Your priorities – or your perceived priorities – can have an impact on a judge and a Guardian ad litem’s opinion of you.
It may be Victorian or prudish or backwards or positively prehistoric (because, after all, judges aren’t morality police, right?!), but the decisions you make in your private life from here on out are going to matter to the people who review and make decisions about your case.
If he’s not a bad guy, and you didn’t answer yes to any of the questions I asked earlier, that’s definitely a good start. Still, you’ll have to exercise some prudence while your case is pending, and continually show that you value your child’s best interests beyond your boyfriend. It seems obvious, of course, but you might be surprised at how many people are so distracted by their new love interest that the child’s interests start to fall by the wayside. Probably a bad idea to move a child in with a new love interest too quickly; that almost certainly looks like you’re thinking with organs other than those found in your head.
What if we live together?
It’s a risk in more than one way. It’s a risk because you potentially show the judge or the GAL that you’re thinking more about your happiness than your child’s. Moving the child around like that can be confusing, especially if it creates uncertainty about who daddy is supposed to be.
It’s also a risk because I often see prohibitions awarded that disallow overnight guests of the opposite sex. If you move in together, and then one of those prohibitions is applied in your case, it can make your personal situation kind of messy. Not only the fact that the actual living together might make you look like a mom who isn’t all that concerned with her child’s well being, but also because then you have a terrible situation – does he move out? Sleep somewhere else while the child is in your custody? Do you move out? Either way, it can be confusing for and create instability for the child. Not exactly an ideal scenario.
When CAN we live together, then?
Ideally? When you and your boyfriend get married. That’s not to say that I think you should hurry into a marriage just so you can cohabitate; quite the opposite, actually. I think relationships should take their time, and you should marry when you’re pretty darn sure that you’ve met the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Particularly if you have a history of making not the best decisions when it comes to men, you should tread carefully and move slowly. Don’t rush into anything, especially not anything as permanent and serious as marriage. (Trust me, divorce is no more fun the second time around.)
However, if there’s a prohibition against unrelated overnight guests, you’ll have to be married to overcome that prohibition. In the meantime, cohabitation wouldn’t be appropriate, and could have serious consequences on your custody case.
If there’s not a prohibition, use your best judgment. Take your child’s mental health into account. Consider your child’s father. Will he take it to court if you do? Maybe best to avoid it on that basis alone. Because, after all, it’s not easy for a child to deal with the emotional consequences of a custody battle, and if you can avoid it so easily, it might be worth considering.
Your new boyfriend could be a totally neutral factor – especially if he’s a nice, normal man with no history of drug addiction and no criminal background, and especially if you don’t live together, you introduced him to your child slowly, he doesn’t stay overnight when you have the child, and you’ve gotten your child the emotional help he might need as he deals with two big life events: (1) the splitting up of his parents, and (2) the introduction of a potential new adult figure in his life.
It’s possible to have a boyfriend and do it carefully, but there’s no question that you’re up against some pretty difficult territory. After all, I said it could be totally neutral; I think there’s no real scenario I can think of where your new boyfriend would weigh positively in your favor. It’s almost certainly either a negative or a neutral factor, so I advise you to tread carefully if custody is a major concern to you.
It’s almost certainly safer to wait to think about your romantic future until after your divorce or custody case has been completed than to risk the potential negative impact on your case. After all, if it’s likely your ex will raise an objection, you could find your boyfriend as a central figure in your custody case.
But I’m already in a relationship!
Already in a relationship? Consider it carefully. Is your new man worth the potential risk to your case? I can hear you already, “But I love him!” Sure. I get it. Is he the one? Maybe. Is he worth the risk? That’s something only you can decide.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed and experienced custody attorneys to discuss your relationship and its potential impact on your custody case, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.