It happens with some regularity that, after a divorce or child custody case, a parent enters into a new relationship. that new relationship typically sees changes occur in the home and in how parents raise children together. You can look at it from the perspective of a parent who just went through a difficult divorce or child custody case only to find that their ex-spouse or Co-parent has already started dating another person. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with this it does add new dynamics into how children are raised. From my experience, it rarely happens that there are no residual issues that come about because of a new relationship in the family.
What you need to be aware of, either as the parent who is dating someone new or as the parent who has a Co-parent who is doing so, is what issues can potentially come about as the result of new relationships. Sometimes all it takes is an adjustment period for everyone to become acclimated to the new dynamic in the family. Other times you may be facing a situation where you have a potential problem on your hands in terms of your family. It could be that this new person is either manipulating your child or you’re to parent in some way. This is a potentially helpless situation for you to find yourself in given that you have no real authority to act towards that person.
However, I do think there are some ways for you to be able to protect yourself and your children from any disruptions to your family life in the event of a new relationship. In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will discuss child custody disputes that arise because of a next spouse's new partner. In walking through some of these issues we will get into some of the more important discussions that you can have in a post-divorce world. While many families struggle after a divorce that does not necessarily need to be the fact with your family.
Are you able to date during a divorce or child custody case?
A frequently asked question that I received is whether it is OK to begin dating before the end of your divorce or child custody case. This is one of those situations where the answer to the question depends upon several different factors. Much of this discussion revolves around your own beliefs and morals when it comes to marriage and relationships. I can tell you that most people consider that type of behavior to be more acceptable during a child custody case rather than during a divorce. However, that does not stop married people from dating even before their divorce case has come to an end.
When it comes to court orders and the judge made rules from your case typically speaking it is not looked favorably for you to date during the divorce. Specifically, most temporary orders in a Texas divorce or child custody case will prohibit you from having an unrelated member of the opposite sex in your home from 6:00 PM until 6:00 AM. This is a prohibition against you having someone over to spend the night when the children are present. The reasoning behind this should be obvious in terms of the court wanting to maintain some degree of normalcy and stability in your child's life even during the divorce. Violations of this can sometimes be hard to track. This is especially true depending upon the age of your children.
It is also not wise to date on any serious level before the end of your divorce from the perspective of the money that you spend on that person would likely be coming out of your community estate. The spending of community resources on a girlfriend or boyfriend while you all are attempting to Sort out Complicated issues involving the division of your community estate would not be wise. At the least, it can disrupt that calculation process in may result in you lengthening your divorce causing you and your spouse to have to spend more time and money on your case than need be. At worst, it may result in you being reprimanded by a judge and finding yourself having to pay fines or attorney’s fees in violation of a court order. Your ability to spend money is limited during a divorce. Spending money on a significant other would go against the terms of a court order.
All of this is to say that it would probably be better if you chose to wait to start a relationship until a later date. However, you may be in a situation where you or your Co-parent have already started a relationship and are not in a position where you could be in that relationship. In that case, you should probably look to what you can do during this time to not upset your children and not disrupt your post-divorce life. This is a sensitive topic in one that you should treat very carefully. The realization that your ability to have a relationship is not completely in your control can be difficult for some people to accept. However, let's look at some of the disputes that may arise due to your being in a relationship and that may give you some food for thought.
Parental alienation occurs where a parent uses their position of authority and influence to purposefully do damage to the relationship between their child and their Co-parent. This is a huge issue in child custody and divorce settings. However, it is not something that many people know that there is an actual title for. With that said, we can look to parental alienation it's probably the most basic form of manipulation of your children that would exist in a post-divorce world. The tricky thing about parental alienation is that it occurs so often yet it is in a setting where you have little control over the events that occur. It is not realistic for you to be able to examine every issue or interaction that your child and your Co-parent have while at his or her home. Unfortunately, this is where most of the alienation occurs. Out of your sight and perhaps out of your mind.
In some families, it is not your Co-parent specifically who will engage in the manipulation, but they are family members. Think about the extended family of your ex-spouse like his parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters who may know you and therefore have an opinion about your case or the goings-on of your life with your ex-spouse. Those people may have the decency and self-control to hold back their opinions when it to comes to matters related to your life with your children. What occurs more often is that the Co-parent is not able to control their behavior and that tends to impact their extended family who may have an increased willingness to say negative things about you as a result. This is less than ideal and very difficult for you 2 do much of anything about. What you may need to do is have a discussion with your ex-spouse about these subjects. For instance, he or she may not even be aware of their behavior regarding how they are talking about you when you are not around. Sometimes all it takes is a simple conversation or a friend request to not speak negatively about you in front of the kids for him or her to agree to play nice. This doesn't always happen but until you try it you will never know what good could come of this type of conversation.
I think sometimes the most difficult that type of manipulation circumstances that you may find yourself in could be regarding manipulation from a significant other of your ex-spouse. For a moment, put yourself in the position of your children. Depending on their age and maturity level they may have no understanding of what had just transpired with your divorce. They may know that their parents no longer live together but beyond that, they could have zero understanding of what divorce means for their life and their future. They are looking for some form of stability to be able to help guide them during this time.
Into that void steps, your ex-spouse is significantly other. He or she may have a goal in mind to turn your children against you in favor of your ex-spouse. To do so, he or she may be the leading proponent of manipulation and alienation. This person is in a unique position to probably know details about their lives that few other people do. He or she could easily utilize that information to their advantage in attempting to harm the relationship that you have with your children. This manipulation can be rather subtle if you have younger children. A negative word here or there about you can't be enough for a young child to suddenly question some aspect of your life or theirs without them even knowing it.
On the other hand, if you have older children the significant other may not hold back very much at all and instead openly complain or talk negatively about you. you need to be aware of this reality and be prepared to discuss this with your children. At this point, you may be thinking about how you can identify behavior and alienation is occurring at your spouse’s home. After all: it would be awkward to begin a discussion like this with your kids only to find that no manipulation was occurring. With that said, there are some warning signs that you can look out for that may be able to tip you off as to whether alienation is occurring at the home of your ex-spouse.
Signs of parental alienation
Simply put, you need to first lookout for changes in behavior by your children. Acting out of character towards you or your family not gradually but rather suddenly can be a telltale sign that manipulative behavior is occurring. For example, if your children have always been extremely warm and friendly towards your family but suddenly appear cold or distant and you have no other explanation for it then you should probably at least inquire into whether or not alienation is occurring at the home of your ex-spouse. It would be a bad idea to let that type of behavior fester and not deal with it directly.
another sign of parental alienation would be that your child's performance in school is suffering. No matter what are your child is if he or she is concerned with their home life and family that is a major distraction for them on a nearly constant basis. As a result, their grades may suffer because of this constant distraction. You can be as vigilant as possible in helping your child to understand the realities of your post-divorce life and help him or her manage their emotions and expectations.
Disputes over primary conservatorship
One of the most prominent types of disputes that can arise because of dating by your ex-spouse after a divorce is regarding fights over which one of you will be the primary conservator of your children. The primary conservator of her children has the upper hand when it comes to being able to make decisions and hold rights on behalf of your children but also in terms of being able to receive child support and spend more time with the children. Let's assume that you find yourself in a situation where you were named as the primary conservator of your children in a divorce. Since the end of your case, it has come to your attention that your ex-spouse has begun dating after your divorce case came to an end. While this was not especially surprising it did lead you to wonder what impacts it could have on your child custody circumstances.
The first thing that was impacted by this was more stories from your children about how their father began to spoil them a great deal when they were over at his home. Tales of fun food and fun activities followed the kids home seemingly every weekend that they would spend time with their father. While there is nothing wrong with this it did lead you to be a little suspicious about the motives of your ex-husband because he was never one to spoil the kids all that much during your marriage. Your mind couldn't help but think about the ulterior motives behind his actions in this way.
The motives of your Co-parent became obvious when you were served with documents from the court where your spouse was asking a family court judge to modify your divorce decree to allow him to become the primary conservator to your children. This would be a substantial change for your kids and both of you. For one, your spouse I was never the greatest caregiver of the king during your marriage. That was always more or less your responsibility. Secondly, you know that your ex-husband did not earn a very high salary and as a result, it was surprising to see that he had the money or even the desire to spend on attorney’s fees. All these thoughts were swirling around in your head when you received the court paperwork from the process server.
When your spouse attempted to when primary custody of the kids it could have been at the request of their new girlfriend. She may have lost patience with he's having to pay you child support and as a result, this request to modify your divorce decree may have been as much about her wanting more money in the household than it was about your spouse wanting to be able to spend more time with your kids. While that is not necessarily an argument that you can present to a family court you should emphasize the reality that your Co-parent never was the primary caretaker of your children during your marriage and that his sudden change of heart in this regard may be due in no small part to a desire to not pay child support. these are the types of circumstances that you can quickly find yourself in after a divorce or child custody case. having the perspective and guidance of an experienced family law attorney during this time. Can be especially meaningful and important for you. When your relationship with your children and their best interests are at stake it is important to be able to support yourself by having an attorney you can trust.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.
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- When Can a Minor Child Weigh in on Custody Decisions in Texas?”
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Custody Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child custody, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX child custody lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our child custody lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles child custody cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.