We often hear of difficulties arising when one or both parents start new relationships. It may be that the new partner was a trigger for the separation. It is also common for arrangements for children to work reasonably well until one or other parent gets a new partner.
How soon do I leave it before I look for a new partner?
There is lots to sort out after separation from your partner. Not least of which is reliable arrangements for childcare. Then there is CMS, a new home, extended family, re-establishing old friendships, divorce arrangements, a financial settlement and getting your head round the loss. This last one can take considerable time even if you don’t want to admit it.
Getting over your last relationship first.
You can become paralysed by the sense of injustice, feelings of vengeance, loneliness and you can easily slip into depression, drinking or drugs, unless you make a conscious effort not to do so. The realisation that your hopes and dreams are ended may even make you suicidal, especially if all you see ahead is a massive legal struggle to see your children. Thinking like this will take you nowhere. Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. All what seem like insurmountable problems, are resolvable. Most Dads, Mums, and children of separation, go on to live happy health lives. FNF can help with re-establishing your relationship with your children and a plan for your new life.
My next step.
It is not wise to start out with a new partner before all the issues around the last relationship are settled, or at least your plans to sort them are well underway. If anything, you owe it to your new partner not to burden them with your problems.
Leave your search for a new partner for some time…possibly two years but do not isolate yourself from society. Genuine friendships are an essential part of your recovery and journey back to normal.
What should I look for in a new partner?
It is certainly worth taking a long hard look at what wrecked your past relationship. This cannot be done under the shadow of a court case, obstructed child contact, financial pressures or whatever is filling your head, after your separation.
It is worth listening to friends but remember they tend to be partisan. They will be on somebody’s side (hopefully yours) or have their own axe to grind. It is worth reading books and internet articles dealing with separation issues. If you can afford it, it is certainly worth a Counceller or therapist. There is no point re-inventing the wheel or trying to do it all alone. This is not a simple journey, because you may discover you were more responsible for your family breakup than you initially want to admit. But if you ask those who have made this journey, the journey back to your children, they all say, it was the best thing they have ever done.
How do I introduce my new partner to my child/ren?
Very slowly and not at all until your child/ren are comfortable with their new parenting arrangements. This may take as long as a year. Do not make the mistake of believing you are showing your commitment to your new partner by sharing your children. Your commitment is to your children and their welfare. If your new partner cannot understand that, especially if they make or serve you with the ultimatum ‘them or me’… then ditch them. Eventually introduce your new partner as a friend, for short periods of time.
No kissing or cuddling in front of the kids. Your children should begin to trust him/her before you leave them alone together and then only for brief periods. Ensure there is lots of time for you and your kids alone separate from the new partner. Do not allow your new partner to adopt the role of new Mummy/Daddy or expect them to… ever. This will be confusing for the kids and the new partner and potentially emotionally damaging for them both. Do not expect a new partner to discipline them or make decisions for them. They already have a Mum and a Dad, and your new friend is not one of them.
The role of new partner is not an easy one and they could well benefit from a parenting course run by your Local Authority which you could attend together. These courses are usually free and assume nothing about your reasons for attending.
How do I know my ex’s new partner is safe?
You can make a query with the Police under Claire’s Law. This is a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. Under Clare’s Law, a member of the public can make enquiries into the partner of a close friend or family member. Each local Police force has its own website that allows you to make a request.
You can also find out if your ex’s new partner is a sex offender using Sarah’s Law. Sarah's Law is a child sexual offender disclosure scheme across England and Wales that makes it possible for anyone to formally ask their local police force if someone with access to a child - whether they are a father, mother an uncle, or work in places where children might be - has a record of committing child sexual offences.
If you are making an enquiry about your ex's new partner, before making either of these enquiries be sure of your motivation. Do you really have concerns about your ex’s new partner or are you trying to stop or disrupt his/her attempt to build a new relationship.
Can my ex meet my new partner?
Of course, but don’t expect it to be a simple process. All sorts of emotions will resurface, especially in the resident parent who is unlikely to have the time or money for a new social life let alone nurture new partners. The emotional reaction is amplified if the reason for the separation was infidelity. It is likely to lead to obstruction of existing parenting arrangements or even blocking them all together.
However, if you and your ex are talking and hold no animosity towards each other, then a meeting between your ex and your new partner could clear the air specially for your children who may be confused. The role of new partner to somebody with kids from a previous relationship is not easy.
What sort of agreement should my ex and new partner come to?
First and fore-most your new partner needs to understand that they are NOT a new, takeover, parent. The kids Mum and Dad will still make all the important decisions about the child/ren without the input of the new partner. And if Mum and Dad decide something the new partner disagrees with, they will not undermine it either with the children or the extended family. That, in so many words, is what the new partner needs to make very clear to the ex. It will encourage confidence and trust from the get-go.
Second the new partner should make no reference to the past relationship of Mum and Dad. Even if Mum or Dad has confided every tiny detail of the relationship breakdown, it is not for them to discuss it with anyone, especially the children, and it should not influence their behaviour to them. This is what the children want and what all parties should be committed to provide.
Third. The new partners/s should understand, it is not a sign of love or commitment to maintain or encourage bad feeling between their new partner and his/her ex. The greatest achievement of Mum and Dad, despite their separation, are their children, and they will thank you for help with their childcare but you will get no thanks from anybody for encouraging antagonism.
Can my new partner get parental responsibility?
Yes. They will either need the permission of the child’s other parent or if you can’t reach an agreement, they will need to apply to the local family court. You can find details of the process here:
Take great care when considering this. If your current arrangement is working well, then don’t change it. An application for parental responsibility, arriving unannounced, on the hall carpet of the resident parent, can result in the end of hard earning parenting opportunities for the non-resident parent. The resident parent will rightly be concerned about your motives and your plans for the future if you have not fully discussed this with them prior to your application.
In general, applications for PR by new partners should be limited to very specific circumstances such as death of the other partner.
Can I change my children’s name to that of my new partner?
Technically yes. There are ways but it would be very unwise. The experience of FNF members is that this causes division between parents and confusion for children. Children cannot be offered as a gift or sign of lasting love. Remember your last relationship didn’t work out well, maybe your next one will do the same but your children will be with you forever.
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