Can I stop my ex from introducing their new love interest to our kids?
The answer to this question can be complicated under Florida law. Undergirding every Florida court order related to children, including time-sharing and visitation, is their best interests. Let’s walk through the issues step by step.
Does your divorce decree include an order keeping your ex’s partner from having contact with your children?
If it does, then you should talk to a family lawyer about what steps to take to enforce this provision.
State statute gives a court broad discretion in this area, providing that it can “make specific orders regarding the parenting plan and time-sharing schedule as such orders relate to the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case and are equitable …” For example, in Jones v. Jones, the original divorce judgment provided that the wife’s boyfriend not be within 150 feet of the young child of the marriage.
In a slightly different, but potentially relevant situation, the appeals court in Commander v. Commander upheld the trial court’s refusal to grant overnight visitation for three young children at the mother’s home when she was cohabiting with her boyfriend, finding it would not be in their best interest.
Significantly though to the issue we consider today, the court said that it had power to protect “the institutions of marriage and the family.” Also, the court can order a time-sharing arrangement that would prevent a “reasonably anticipated adverse effect on the child from exposure to a proposed situation.”
If your divorce judgment does not prohibit contact with your ex’s partner, can you ask the court to modify it?
Preventing your child from meeting your ex-spouse’s new partner may be possible if you can show a court that it would not be in the child’s best interest. You can ask the court to modify a parenting plan or time-sharing schedule if you can show a “substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances and a determination that the modification is in the best interests of the child.”
Can I just keep my children home from their parenting time with their other parent so they won’t meet the new partner?
If your ex has the court-ordered right to time-sharing, historically called visitation, with the child, you must be careful how you proceed. State statute gives broad power to the court to remedy the rights of a parent if the other parent has “refuse[d] to honor the time-sharing schedule in the parenting plan without proper cause …” (Emphasis added.)
Preventing visitation with the other parent without proper cause exposes the preventing parent to liability for legal fees and costs if the other parent sues to enforce the order. The parent who prevented visitation could be ordered to do community service and to other enumerated and reasonable sanctions, potentially even being found in contempt of court.
Talk to an attorney to understand whether potential contact with your ex’s partner is “proper cause” to keep the kids from seeing your ex during their regular parenting time.
These are thorny issues that should be thoroughly reviewed with a family lawyer to understand your options and create a plan forward.