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Can a Parent’s New Significant Other Be Excluded From Parenting Time?

Parenting time is fundamental to ensuring a solid relationship between a noncustodial parent and children during and after a divorce. A situation may arise when a noncustodial parent cultivates a new relationship with a significant other. This scenario can raise the question of whether or not such a significant other can be precluded from visitation.

As an aside, in lieu the term parenting time, visitation is also utilized in this discussion. The legal term “visitation” has long been used to identify the time a noncustodial parent spends with children during or after a divorce. Visitation as a legal term of art largely has been disregarded in favor of the phrase incorporating parenting and time or parenting time. This change is designed to better reflect that a noncustodial parent is not to be relegated to the position of being a visitor in the life of a minor child.

There are five prime concerns to consider regarding the prospect of precluding a noncustodial parent’s new “significant other” from being a part of visitation:

  • Use of the best interests of a child standard
  • Nature of noncustodial parent’s relationship with a new significant other
  • Gradually introduction of new significant other to child or children
  • Abdication of parenting time
  • Significant other who poses a possible risk to children
Application of Best Interests of a Child Standard

If an issue is raised about parenting time and a relatively new significant other, the guiding principle in used to address the matter is the best interests of a child standard. The best interests of a child standard is the guideline utilized by a New Jersey court when facing any type of issue involving or impacting custody and visitation. It is the application of this standard that primarily will govern whether a new significant other will be excluded from parenting time.

Nature of a Spouse’s Relationship with a New Significant Others

The nature of a noncustodial spouse’s relationship with a new significant other may also come into play in regard to the matter of involvement in visitation. If a significant other is relatively new in the life of the noncustodial parents, some limitations in regard to visitation involvement may be deemed fair and appropriate.

Gradually Introducing New Significant Other to Child or Children

Because a new significant other is likely to play an important, indeed fundamental, role in the life of a noncustodial parent, if involvement in visitation is rather minimal initial, that is not at all likely to remain the status quo. An effort is going to be permitted by the court to allow a gradual and greater introduction of a new significant other to a child or children.

Abdication of Parenting Time

With more regularity than many realize, there are situations in New Jersey and across the country in which a noncustodial parent essential abdicates his or her role in visitation to that person’s significant other. In other words, although the noncustodial parent exercises visitation, during that time period, the parent’s significant other is the individual who spends most of the time with the child or children.

While the significant other may present no threat or risk to the children, the idea that the noncustodial parent may abdicate his or her visitation and parenting role in this manner can lead the court to take action. One mechanism a court might employ is to restrict contact the significant other has with a child or children until such time as a noncustodial parent demonstrates to a judge that he or she is properly engaged in visitation and with the life of his or her offspring.

Significant Other Who Presents a Risk to Child or Children

The most significant state of affairs that can give rise to the preclusion of a noncustodial parent’s significant other having involvement with visitation is a credible allegation of risk to the child or children. If a demonstration is made that the significant other presents a risk to the physical, emotional, or psychological wellbeing of a child or children if allowed to have contact via a visitation scheme, a court will agree to or otherwise issue an order to prevent such a connection.

If you have any questions relating to child custody, visitation, or divorce more generally, an experienced divorce lawyer at the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen can answer any questions you may have at this time. You can schedule a free initial consultation and case evaluation by calling us at (201) 845- 7400.

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