New Jersey Family Court Judge Says Not Unless There is Inappropriate Conduct.
When parents get divorced, it is difficult for the entire family. While the parents adjust to being apart, the children must get used to spending time with each parent individually, often in new and unfamiliar environments.
It is natural for parents to get involved in new relationships after a divorce or separation. However, the presence of a new significant other in a child’s life can present yet another adjustment that the child may not be ready to face.
The other parent may also have concerns about the character of the significant other, the idea of their child spending time with a stranger, or the moral conclusions which a child may reach about an unmarried partner spending the night.
For those reasons and more, as part of their New Jersey divorce settlement, parents may agree to refrain from exposing their children to new significant others for an indefinite period of time.
Such a restriction is known as a DeVita restraint. It gets its name from a case entitled DeVita v. DeVita, which was decided by a New Jersey appeals court almost 40 years ago. In that case, the appeals court upheld a ruling by a New Jersey Family Court trial judge who had prohibited the father’s girlfriend from staying overnight when the children were present.
The rationale for the ruling of the appeals court was that “a substantial body of the community” agreed with the mother’s position that the children’s “moral welfare” would be compromised by witnessing such activity.
In a recent decision entitled Mantle v Mantle, Judge Lawrence Jones, a New Jersey family court trial judge came to a different conclusion. Judge Jones held that an indefinite ban on contact between the child and the parent’s new significant other is unenforceable, absent any evidence of inappropriate conduct.
Judge Jones found that the departure from DeVita was warranted, due to the change in the moral landscape since 1976 and the prevalence of unmarried cohabiting couples in today’s society. For that reason, Judge Jones held that the duration of any restraints should relate to the best interest of the child. Specifically, a New Jersey Family Court judge should evaluate:
- How long the parties have been living apart;
- The age(s) of the child(ren);
- How long the parent and new partner have been dating;
- Whether the partner is already known to the child;
- Whether the child has a psychiatric, psychological, or emotional issue that might require special consideration; and
- Whether the dating partner poses a threat through inappropriate actions or comments.
An experienced New Jersey family law attorney can help you understand your legal rights concerning interactions between your children and new romantic partners. At Salvaggio Law Group, family law is all we do. If you would like to talk, please call us at (973) 455-1220 or fill out the Contact Form on our website.