Sadly, all too often following a separation, one party becomes quickly embroiled in a new relationship. This inevitably leads to more hurt and upset for the other party and confusion for the children, who remain stuck in the middle.
Although the instinct may be to stop the children meeting the ‘new partner’, the best advice is to stop and think honestly and objectively about the situation. All the fears and thoughts running through your mind are valid - Yes, it will be confusing for the children, Yes, you do not want the children meeting someone you know nothing about and Yes, you do not want this new person parenting the children, that is your job – but the question is how will these concerns can be managed in a way that is best for the children?
In addition to this, Parental Responsibility means that 'key decisions' concerning the children’s lives must be made jointly by the parents and in the absence of agreement, an order of the court must be sought. The introduction of a new partner to the children, is unlikely to be deemed as a ‘key decision’ so it is unlikely that the the court will view it as something that requires the agreement of both parents.
This is how the court approached this issue in a recent case of ours, where parent A refused to let the children meet parent B’s new partner, who parent B shared a home with. This meant that parent B could not spend time with the children in the home or spend time with them overnight and this ultimately had a negative impact on the children, who just wanted to go to parent B’s home, chill out on the sofa and have a bit of dinner, as opposed to walking around the park in the rain. In that case, the court was clear that it is for parent B to decide if, when and how the children are introduced to the new partner.
The approach you take is important. You do not want to find yourself before the court, with your ex seeking a Child Arrangements Order, relying on your hesitation about the new partner to demonstrate that you are unwilling to promote contact between that parent and the children. Conversely, if you are the one with the new partner, you do not want to rush into something and breakdown the trust between you and your ex (in terms of parenting) or cause the children emotional harm. A more helpful question to help you move forwards would be how and when should the children be introduced to the new partner, rather than how can I stop the children from being introduced.
It is always helpful to get legal advice on how to approach situations such as these, as, although not strictly legal, the way these issues are managed, will impact on how you co-parent moving forward and whether you ultimately end up in court proceedings.