Breakups and the Children of your Ex
By Frank Kermit
Breakups can be messy, especially when there are children involved. If the break up involves the court system, they get worse.
The rules can be pretty clear when the children belong to both parents in the couple breaking up.
However, when the children involved only belong to one of the individuals of the relationship that is ending, it can be really heart-wrenching for some adults to find out they may not have any say in continuing a relationship with the children of a former partner.
In cases where a single parent has started seriously dating another adult, the lines about what role that new adult can play in a child’s life can be very blurry, especially in cases where the relationship, although serious and long term, may never have involved marriage, and/or the adoption of the child by the new adult partner, or even the couple living together.
However influential and a positive impact an adult in a relationship with a single parent may have had with the single parent’s child, it may not merit an ongoing association with that child when the romantic relationship ends.
In the case where children are minors, the child’s parent (who is a newly-single parent again) may be well within their rights to forbid any sort of interaction between his or her child and the former partner.
This can be a horrible situation for the former partner who may have bonded with the child, and for the child that could have an attachment to the former partner.
It is important that the best interest of the children involved are kept in the forefront of any decision about how the couple will handle the end of their relationship and to factor in those best interests, even if you no longer like your former partner.
With that said, it is also important to assess how worthwhile it will be for the children to continue to associate with a former partner that is no longer involved with the children’s parent, and the context of the break up.
For example, if continuing to associate with the children would interfere with the single parent’s new relationship opportunity for a more serious partner that wants to step up to being a legal step parent, it may be wise to terminate the association.
As most relationships between adults tend to not last a significant duration (relative to how a child experiences the time) it is often a good idea not to introduce new partners to your children until a definite commitment and plan has been made to take your serious long term relationship to the next level to the point where the new partner would take on a family role as a legal step parent.
If you are a couple in the process of breaking up and there are children involved in your relationship that have bonded to the former partner, make sure that you and your former partner plan a proper exit strategy that takes into consideration how the former partner will or will not be involved in the lives of the children of the single parent because that extra dose of maturity is what is in the best interest of your children, your step children, and the children of your partner.