How a New Marriage Can Affect Child Custody Agreements
Divorce is a painful process, but most divorced singles will eventually move onto a new relationship. Introducing a new romantic interest into a household with children and shared custody with the other parent creates interesting dynamics that can have practical and legal implications. Certainly, child custody agreements are primarily between the parents, but their partners will be both affected by and likely have opinions about the terms and how they are being followed. This can lead to issues between the parents, the new partners, and the children, an atmosphere that should be avoided if possible. How potential tension manifests in each family will vary, but the underlying matter that should be considered is both how the new partner will impact the child custody agreement, and if remarriage follows, whether the new spouse will have any rights over the child’s care and welfare. While integrating a new spouse often leads to some disagreement and adjustment for the children, eventually most learn to get along. Unfortunately, not all new step-parents find this balance, and one Pensacola man was recently arrested for severely beating his step-son for bad grades. No one, parents included, have the right to treat a child this way, but it does bring to the forefront how much involvement a step-parent should have.
Effect on Child Custody Agreements
New step-parents are moving into situations and patterns related to child custody that preceded them and have imprinted a routine on the lives of those involved. Legally speaking, step-parents cannot be forced to abide by the terms of a child custody agreement, but many include provisions that require review upon remarriage or a new partner moving into the household to ensure everyone is on the same page, and that the step-parent is willing to follow the current plan. Without his/her cooperation, compliance will be challenging at best, and if this becomes a serious issue, it may be sufficient grounds to move for modification of the custody order. Further, entering into a new family could require the step-parent to disclose personal information if, for example, either parent seeks to modify child support, and the new spouse’s income is needed to verify household resources as it is likely that income, assets and debts are commingled. These are considerations everyone should take into account.
The other main issue step-parents must confront is what right they have to parent the child. As far as the law is concerned, the step-parent has no rights to control or make decisions for the child. This includes input into medical care, education, picking up the child from daycare, and childrearing choices. In other words, the step-parent has no control over the child, and must accept a secondary role in this situation. In addition, the step-parent needs to avoid intruding on the rights of the other parent. Anything that hinders compliance with the child custody agreement or impacts the other parent’s relationship with the child could be used to argue that the custody agreement needs to be changed in order to protect the best interests of the child. In the worst-case scenario, this could result in the step-parent’s spouse losing some of his/her custody rights. Thus, the step-parent needs to tread carefully in this area to avoid triggering negative consequences.
Call a Florida Family Law Attorney
Bringing in a new spouse is a big change, and can cause big consequences. Make sure you understand all the potential issues so that the appropriate safeguards can be put in place. New marriages do not need to create a lot of tension, but appropriate planning is important for avoiding issues with child custody. The Port St. Lucie child custody attorneys at Baginski Brandt & Brandt can see the big picture with child custody issues and are here to help your family find the right solution. Contact us for a consultation.