Divorcing Parents Visits Clarified

Divorce proceedings are painful, often messy affairs, and too often children of the splitting parents are caught right in the middle. New law rulings enacted by Ocean County Judge Lawrence Jones earlier this month have attempted to provide more reasonable accommodations for adapting and continuing with life after divorce, specifically as it applies to the now-divorced parents’ future love lives.

The Case:
A divorce case in November of last year, Mantle v. Mantle, agreed upon strict restrictions upon future boyfriends or girlfriends of the former spouses having contact with their children during times of set aside parenting. There was no ending point to this contingency, and in January, the mother invoked a motion against the father for his new girlfriend spending time with their son.

The Ruling and the Reasons:
Judge Jones ruled that an indefinite ban is unrealistic and unenforceable, and cautioned against the possibilities of one parent invoking it out of spite for their former partner moving on in life. A major focus of the ruling was on the well-being of any children involved, and instead of an all-out ban, the judge ruled for a gradual introduction into the new phase of the parents, and the child’s, future living situations.

In particular focus was the status of overnight visits between a parent and new partner, which had been deemed morally repugnant in a 1976 case of similar design. Speaking to the vast changes in the public’s attitude to pre-marital cohabitation since the 70s, Jones agreed that children should not be immediately placed in an unfamiliar situation on top of their likely significant emotional turmoil following the divorce. However, he was firm on the idea that the morals of the country are changing, and that it is unrealistic to indefinitely ban any contact with a new paramour of the child’s parent.

Factors to Consider:
As all divorce proceedings are unique to the parties involved, so too will be visitation rights and stipulations. Some considerations for interactions with new partners of divorcing parents set forth by Jones include any prior relationship between the new partner and the child, length of the parent’s new relationship, age of child involved, and length of separation between parents. Ever reasonable, he also noted that these new possibilities should always be enacted with the well-being of the child at heart. In cases where the new partner poses any sort of threat to the child, or exhibits inappropriate behavior, an outright ban can still be enacted.

The emotional and mental state of the child concerning the divorce should also be put into consideration, and for the Mantle v. Mantle case, the father’s girlfriend was deemed to post no substantial threat to the best interest of the child, provided her introduction into his life was done gradually. For this particular case, Jones ruled that the parents might introduce their child to new partners after six months following their initial separation. Overnight visits would be permissible in the child’s presence after one year.

A well-reasoned case, all parties seemed satisfied with the result of the case at its conclusion. Even the representative of the child’s mother declared that the ruling was “right to put the child’s needs first”. If you have any questions about how this ruling may affect your divorce terms, or are in need of a divorce attorney, call us today at Zapicchi & Liller: (609) 291-9500.