Life is complicated after divorce when you have children. There is no such thing as a clean break from your ex – you and he will forever be co-parents of your children. You both must find a way to put whatever residual resentment or anger you have aside, and work together for the sake of your children so that their well-being is not compromised by your divorce.
You and your ex will eventually start healing from the divorce and will want to move on and start dating and perhaps find love again. So, you now are now ready to date – how do you best accomplish this considering the divorce dynamics and the children? Read on for three useful tips.
1. Tell Your Ex and Your Children in Advance.
Secrets are always discovered eventually, and the fact that you are beginning to date might shock or otherwise distress your children if they are not suitably prepared. Talk with them about the reasons you want to go out and meet people. If you are dating online, this is the perfect opportunity for a teachable moment – show your kids how to be safe online by setting a good example.
Inform your ex too, as your new relationship with one another as co-parents is probably a bit fragile in the months and years following your divorce. Assure him that you are not intending to bring every date home and that your priority is and always will be the safety and well-being of your children.
You want your ex to accept that you are dating, otherwise, there could be legal ramifications. He may file a motion to get custody of the children and in that case, you will have to go to court and argue that your dating is not detrimental to your children’s best interests. Who wants to discuss that in public and on the record? Getting your ex on board from the start is the best way to avoid this problem.
2. Don’t Introduce Your New Beau to Your Children until Things Get Serious.
For goodness’ sake, don’t bring every date home. And keep your home address to yourself until you know him better.
Regardless of where and how you meet someone, you aren’t going to really know him as a person after only one date. Everyone is on their best behavior on the first date! Get to know him and trust him before disclosing your home address and before introducing him to your children. Any red flags will pop up eventually, so take your time to find out what sort of person he really is. Besides the obvious safety concerns with any stranger, you don’t want to involve the children in your casual dating..
Once you settle on someone as a steady boyfriend, then things change. Talk with your children first before having him over to meet them. Prepare them for the meeting by encouraging them to tell you how they feel about it, and by explaining that you have no expectation of immediate welcome into the family, rather, you expect them to be polite and open to getting to know him, and that is all. Let them vent if they need to. They will feel like you respect them and that will really help things moving forward.
Above all, you don’t want to disappoint the children if they get attached to a boyfriend and you later break it off. The kids are likely feeling vulnerable and fragile from the divorce so take care with whom you bring into their lives.
Once you are serious about someone, it is also time to introduce him to your ex. Your ex, as the co-parent of your children, has a right to know who is spending time with his kids. Again, you want to prepare him in advance and perhaps meet in a neutral location, like a coffeehouse or restaurant. This will encourage civil, polite behavior for all parties.
Be prepared if your ex dislikes your new beau – he can make life difficult for you both by filing motions in family court to restrict your beau’s unsupervised access to the children or file a motion to change the child custody arrangements.
3. Don’t Get Carried Away in the Excitement of Dating Someone New.
Without a doubt, it is exciting to be found attractive again, after divorce! But don’t get carried away. You’ve heard the rebound stories of women fast falling in love with the first man who pays them some attention, only to be disappointed when he isn’t the person she thought he was, or he isn’t into being exclusive.
There are legal ramifications to putting all of your energy into a new relationship to the detriment of the well-being of your children, and your ex could always file a motion for a change in child custody and allege that you are neglecting the children. A court will always make a determination based on what is in the best interests of the child or children. Keep that in mind as you try to fit your new beau in your life.
Take your time. Enjoy the attention, but be cautious. The last thing you and your family need is additional drama, so take things slow and be careful about who you let into your heart and your life again. You will be glad you did.
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She often works with Todd Mosser, Esq., a noted civil and criminal appeals attorney in Philadelphia.