Dating after separation: Does my new partner have legal responsibilities toward my child?
Dating after separation or divorce when you have kids from a previous relationship can be complicated. If you are a single parent dating or you are moving in with your new partner and their children, these FAQs are for you.
When should I introduce my new partner to my child?
Timing will depend on several considerations, including your child’s age and how long it has been since you and their parent separated. Give your child time to adjust after your separation and put your child’s needs first. It is ideal to schedule dates outside of your parenting time and hold off on introducing your child to anyone you are casually dating. Keep in mind that if you introduce your child to a person you are dating and that relationship later ends, your child may be upset at another change in their life.
You may also wish to discuss the introduction of third parties with your child’s other parent in advance of the situation arising so you know the ground rules and you do not cause unnecessary conflict with your former spouse.
Can I lose custody of my child for dating?
Dating after separation or divorce is not a legal reason for the child’s other parent to keep the child from you or deny access. The fact of moving in with a new partner will not necessarily cause you to lose the parenting time you already have. That being said, if your separation or divorce is not finalized, dating and/or moving in with a new partner can create challenges in your parenting case. The best interests of your child are always the paramount consideration. So, for example, if your child does not like your new partner and prefers to spend time with you on a one on one basis, these can be factors the court considers when making their ruling on parenting time.
There is an important caveat to emphasize: custody as it used to be called or parenting time as it is now called can be impacted if your new partner or your new partner’s child poses a risk to your child’s physical or emotional safety. The court may limit your parenting time if the living arrangements are not safe or your new partner puts your child at risk due to drug or alcohol abuse, violence or a criminal record.
Can I have my boyfriend around my child?
The caveats above apply with equal force here. Do you trust your new boyfriend or girlfriend? Does your child feel comfortable with them? If the answer to these questions is yes, then it is okay to have your boyfriend or girlfriend around.
What about having your new partner babysit your child? Ask yourself if your new partner is a reliable, competent, safe caregiver. Will it create conflict with your child’s other parent? Does your parenting plan, separation agreement, or court order give your child’s parent the right of first refusal if you are not available to care for your child? If your new partner is a capable care giver, your child is comfortable with them and your parenting plan/court order does not say otherwise, your new partner may occasionally babysit.
Will dating affect child support?
Whether you are a single mom dating or a single dad dating, child support is not affected. In fact, you can live with a new partner without it affecting child support. This is because BC child support calculations only take the parents' incomes into account. The usual rule is that the income of either parent’s new partner is not relevant, even if the new partner helps financially support the child.
Does my boyfriend or girlfriend have legal responsibilities for my child?
If you are dating someone that person does not have legal responsibilities to support your child. If, however, you move in with your girlfriend and her child, or your boyfriend and his child, the legal situation can change without you realizing it. BC family law says that a person is a “stepparent” if:
- they marry the child’s parent; OR
- they live with the child’s parent in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years (also known as a common-law relationship); AND
- they lived with the child and the child’s parent during the child’s lifetime.
In BC, a person who meets that definition of stepparent can have a legal duty to pay child support after separating from the child’s parent. The primary responsibility for child support lies with the natural parents of the child but a stepparent can also be responsible for child support if they lived with and contributed to the support of the child for at least one year. When deciding if a stepparent should have to pay child support, the court will also look at factors such as the child’s standard of living when they lived with the stepparent and how long they lived together.
Can a stepparent have legal rights to my child?
Yes. A stepparent can have legal responsibilities toward a stepchild and can also have legal rights to continue parenting or spending time with a stepchild after separating from the child’s parent. The stepparent and the child’s parent can agree to an arrangement post-separation. If an agreement can not be reached, the stepparent can bring a court application. The court will decide the matter based on what is in the best interest of the child.
Get trusted legal advice on parenting after separation or divorce
Parenting after separation or divorce can be complicated. If you are dating or moving in with a new partner and want to know about your rights and responsibilities with respect to children from a previous relationship, consult Valerie M. Little Law Corporation at your first opportunity. Her law firm is exclusively devoted to issues of family law in Burnaby, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Vancouver and throughout the Lower Mainland. She will make your family law needs a top priority and she will be ready to provide you with clear legal advice on your unique family law situation. At Valerie M. Little Law Corporation, Valerie and her staff listen, they understand and they care. Call 604-526-3333 to get the family legal advice you deserve so you can move forward in your life.