As couples navigate the journey of separating their lives during and after divorce, sometimes difficult feelings can come up when one or both partners decide to explore new romantic relationships. Parents can have all kinds of mixed feelings when they learn that their ex is dating and involving this new person in their children’s life, especially if it happens before the divorce is final. If you’re considering introducing your new significant other to your children, it doesn’t have to be terrible, if you do it right.

  1. Prioritize Communication:

Open and honest communication is the cornerstone of successful co-parenting after divorce. When either partner decides to start dating, it’s crucial to discuss this decision with the other. Surprise is always the enemy during a divorce, so it’s best to tell your co-parent BEFORE you introduce your new relationship to your children. Even the most agreeable co-parent relationships can be tested if little Josh comes home from Dad’s house and is talking non-stop about Dad’s new girlfriend. Share the information with your co-parent ahead of time to avoid surprise and hurt about this issue.

  1. Maintain Consistency:

Stability is key for children during and after a divorce. As new relationships develop, strive to maintain consistency in co-parenting routines, rules, and expectations. Consistency provides a sense of security and normalcy for children adjusting to changes in family dynamics. You should not immediately upend your parenting time schedule so that it matches your new significant other’s children. Continue to do what’s best for YOUR children and their schedules until and unless your relationship takes a more permanent step.

  1. Be Mindful of Boundaries:

Establish clear boundaries with new partners regarding their role in the children’s lives. While your new boyfriend may be a really great guy, if your children’s father has always coached the little league teams, now is not the time for your new boyfriend to take over that role, unless both parties agree. And tasks like medical decision making or discipline should always been reserved for a parent and not a significant other. Both parents need to stay in their “parent” lanes, and new partners need to remain in their supporting roles.

  1. Consider the Timing:

Timing is crucial when it comes to introducing new partners. For some co-parents, the time will never be appropriate. But most parents do move on at some point. While you are free to date whomever you choose, consider NOT introducing a new person into the children’s lives until the dust of your divorce has settled. Ensure that the children have had sufficient time to adjust to the divorce and their new normal before adding a new layer of complexity to their lives.

  1. Prioritize Quality Time:

Regardless of dating and new relationships, prioritize quality time with your children. Be present, engaged, and attentive, reinforcing the message that your love and commitment to them remain unwavering despite changes in the family structure. Don’t always include your new relationship in your parenting time. Your children may not want to share their time with you, especially as they adjust to their new schedules and routines.

Dating after divorce doesn’t have to end in a fight with your co-parent. It’s a normal part of most people’s lives to move on after a divorce and start a new relationship. The place to work out difficult feelings about this transition is not in your co-parenting relationship. Remember to take it slow, keep the lines of communication open, and keep your children’s well-being top of mind.

author avatar
Elisabeth M. Edwards Attorney
Elisabeth M. Edwards is a founding attorney at Wanzer Edwards, PC where she practices in the areas of family law and divorce, including collaborative law, family mediation and arbitration, and Parenting Coordination. Ms. Edwards completed her undergraduate degree at Hanover College, majoring in English. She went on to earn her Juris Doctor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.