family in kitchen children and shopping bags sit on kitchen island surface - concept: introducing new partners to children

What should parents be aware of when introducing new partners to children?

I have often been asked about whether there are any specific rules on introducing new partners to children. This can be a very difficult and emotive time for parents particularly when a new partner is introduced for the first time following a couple’s separation, particularly if one of the parents moves on far more quickly from the separation than the other.

Are there regulations on introducing new partners to children?

The most straightforward to this query is no, there are no particular provisions or regulations which govern the timing or suitability of the introduction of new partners to children.

Given that both parents will usually hold parental responsibility and part of that parental responsibility is for the parent to determine appropriate arrangements for their children and to keep them safe both physically and emotionally and mentally, with whom the children come into contact whilst in that parent’s care is effectively a decision that that parent should be taking with the best interests of their children at heart.

Reasons for genuine concern / issues to consider

There are of course circumstances where there may be a genuine concern to be held about an introduction to new partners.

Example reasons for concern could be if your new partner has:

  • Some form of significant criminal history;
  • A history of violence or domestically abusive relationships;
  • A concerning drink or drug problem; and/or
  • A previous loss of children into the care system due to issues of neglect or abuse.

Agreeing arrangements for the introduction of new partners

Outside of the above specific concerns, the introduction of a new partner can of course be a significant event for a child and it may perhaps be appropriate for the parents to agree on some common sense arrangements which might include establishing the longevity of a new relationship prior to the introduction of children, how the new partner will be introduced to the children and the nature of their engagement.

A previous case in which I was involved did ultimately see us securing an order which specified the amount of time that must pass before a parent could introduce children to a new partner simply because that parent had been introducing children not only to new partners but also their children with incredible regularity and frequency which ultimately was proving emotionally harmful to the children, who just started to become attached to a new partner when the father, in that case, moved onto a new relationship and the children never saw that partner or their children again.

It is quite apparent that a part of the emotive issues surrounding the introduction of a new partner is a concern particularly by the “absent” parent when the primary carer moves a new partner into the home that there will in some way be a supplanting of that parent and their role and importance in that child’s life. Again, therefore it may be appropriate to take a common sense approach, to have a proper discussion around the issues of the involvement of the new partner and for example what they might be called by the children.

This article is part of a series on Private Family Law and Children Law proceedings. If you would like to learn more about the rules around parental responsibility, contact, holidays and arrangements for separated parents, please click here for the full series.

The next article in the series will address what the regulations are for taking children on holiday within the UK.

If you would like to discuss the different types of legal proceedings relating to children, please get in touch and we’d be happy to assist you.