Family Separation Due to Divorce

Can I Forbid My Ex From Bringing Their New Partner Around Our Child?

Law Offices of Fisher Wise April 17, 2024

In the case of divorce or separation, co-parenting can sometimes become a contentious issue. While most couples can sort things out amicably, disputes can arise when one parent introduces a new partner to the children.  

A common question I get at my practice is, "Can I control who sees my kids when they're with their other parent?" 

The answer depends on your situation. But overall, when you share custody with your ex, you need to accept the fact that they have the right to take care of your child according to their own judgment (and per the guidelines set in your custody agreement). 

This means that your ex has the right to introduce a new partner or other adults into your child's life during their time with them. As long as they are not putting your child in danger, you cannot control who they bring around your child. However, if you have concerns about the safety or well-being of your child when they are with the other parent's new partner, it is important to address these concerns with your ex and potentially involve a mediator or seek legal assistance. 

But while you may not be able to control who your ex brings into their home to have contact with your child during their time, you do have a right to set boundaries.   

For instance, if you have concerns about your ex’s new partner’s behavior, expressing your concerns to your ex calmly and reasonably may be helpful. If that doesn't help, you can take legal action by requesting changes to the custody agreement. The court will grant the requested changes if the child’s well-being or safety is at risk around your ex’s new partner.   

What to Do If You Suspect Your Children Are At Risk   

If you think your child is at risk due to your ex's new partner, act fast. Collect any information to back up your worries. Reach out to a lawyer to see what you can do. Keep track of any evidence and conversations with your ex, in case you need to go to court. Your evidence should clearly show that your child's well-being or safety could be in danger. 

How to Change Your Custody Agreement in Tennessee 

If you believe the child’s safety or well-being is at risk, the court may grant a modification to the custody or visitation agreement. However, it’s important to note that the court will not modify a custody agreement solely because you disapprove of your ex’s new partner.  

The Modification Process 

To seek a custody modification in Tennessee due to concerns over a new partner's influence, you'll need to initiate a formal legal process. The first step is usually to file a petition with the court that originally granted the custody agreement. In this petition, you must clearly articulate the reasons for seeking the modification, specifically highlighting how the new partner's relationship with the child poses a risk to the child's well-being or safety. 

To back up your petition with substantial evidence, you'll need to include documented instances of negative behavior by the new partner, expert testimonies (such as from a child psychologist), and any police reports or legal documents that pertain to the new partner.  

After filing the petition, the court will likely schedule a hearing. Both parents will have the opportunity to present their cases. You may bring witnesses to testify on your behalf and present any evidence to the judge. 

Given the complexities involved in this legal process, consulting with a family law attorney experienced in Tennessee custody laws is advisable. An experienced attorney can provide guidance tailored to your situation, help you gather and present evidence effectively, and represent you during the court proceedings. The assistance of an attorney can be invaluable in navigating the legal system and advocating for the best interests of your child. 

The court will consider factors such as the new partner’s criminal or drug record, history of violence or abuse, and evidence of neglect or harm to a child. Indicators of harm could include the child’s behavioral changes, increased anxiety or fear, and testimony from witnesses.  

If the court finds that the child’s safety or well-being is at risk due to the new partner’s actions or presence as a whole, this may warrant changes to the custody agreement.   

Tips on How to Establish Boundaries 

Expressing dissatisfaction with your co-parent's new partner can be challenging, especially when your children are involved. If you're certain that the new partner is someone who you don't think sets a good example for your children, it's important to communicate your concerns respectfully and clearly to your co-parent. 

Here are detailed tips on how to constructively set boundaries: 

  • Focus on the Children’s Needs: Make the conversation about the children’s needs and not personal grievances. Explain how certain actions or behaviors may impact the children and suggest possible solutions. 

  • Be Specific About Your Concerns: Instead of making general complaints, pinpoint specific behaviors or incidents that have raised your concerns. This makes it easier for your co-parent to understand and address these issues. 

  • Request a Meeting With the New Partner: If appropriate, ask to meet the new partner in a neutral, low-pressure setting. This can help establish a baseline of mutual respect and understanding for the sake of the children. 

  • Set Clear Boundaries: Agree on what is and isn’t acceptable behavior around the children. This can include guidelines on discipline, bedtimes, dietary restrictions, and any other aspect of care important to you. 

  • Document Everything: Keep records of all communications and incidents that may support your concerns. This could be important if legal action becomes necessary. 

  • Prioritize Cooperation Over Conflict: Remember that working together in the children's best interest often requires compromise. Try to find common ground where possible. 

These tips aim to foster a cooperative environment for co-parenting, ensuring the children’s welfare is prioritized while maintaining respectful boundaries between adults. 

How Can a Family Law Attorney Help?   

If you have concerns about your child’s safety or well-being because of your ex’s new partner, you need to work with a skilled attorney who can guide you through the legal process.  

A family law attorney can not only help you understand your legal rights but also strategize the most effective way to address your concerns. They will assist in gathering the necessary evidence, which could include witness statements, photographic evidence, or digital communications, that demonstrates the negative influence or danger the new partner poses to your child. 

An attorney can also prepare you for court proceedings, coaching you on how to answer questions and present your case in a manner that effectively communicates your concerns to the judge. Additionally, an experienced attorney will have insight into the specific judge's priorities and past rulings, which can be invaluable in tailoring your argument to what is most likely to resonate with the court.  

Ultimately, a family law attorney is your advocate, working tirelessly to ensure the court's decision reflects the best interest of your child.  

Ready to Discuss Your Case? 

Is it time to set up a meeting with an attorney about your custody situation? The Law Offices of Fisher Wise proudly works with families throughout Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the surrounding communities of Marion County, Rhea County, and Sequatchie County. Reach out today to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your rights and options.