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  1. #1
    waikoloan is offline Member
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    Do parents' new relationships affect ongoing custody cases?

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? HI

    I have a stand alone question and since my previous topic is long (and locked), I hope it's OK to start a new one.

    I have been reading a lot here and have learned a bit about what is and isn't OK for parents to do, but I'm confused about how much the court cares about new relationships formed prior to the divorce and the exposure of children to new boyfriends/girlfriends.

    On one hand I hear that adults are free to form new relationships and the soon to be former spouse needs to get past that. On the other I've seen new stepmoms & dads/girl & boyfriends chastised for being present in the lives of children whose parents are still working things out.

    What do the courts dislike and what do they think is ideal behavior?
    Can anyone explain it to me?

    In the situation I've posted about previously, my son and his wife have been physically separated for 8 1/2 months. She began dating after two months and very quickly had a new relationship. Within two-four months she had put the new BF as Dad on the school contact card.

    Child refers to new BF as Daddy enough to show that he was taught this was the new family (real Dad is "papa-daddy" to him). He's quite confused at the moment.

    Mom is apparently living in new BF's home and wants child to be there with them primarily (her current proposal).

    Dad has not had a date since wife left, but is starting to think it would be nice to ask someone out. What would be the best way to handle it, with the child living in his household? Obviously the paramount thing is not to upset or confuse the child, and he would gauge that and stay far from the line, but what does the court think about these situations?

    To sum up my question, in this time where people freely live together while unmarried and even while married to someone else, is there still a stigma to that behavior, or is it just whatever consenting adults want to do and the children learn to accept it? Are the rules different when the divorce is still pending than afterwards?

    (I personally understand that people break up and move on, but I think it was ridiculous and wrong for Mom to teach her son to get attached to a man she had just met and to use the Dad word. My ex did that with my son and his stepmom, and I will never forget the feeling when I heard my son call another woman Mom, and that was almost 30 years ago. But right now I'm interested in how the Court looks at it.)
  2. #2
    LdiJ is offline Senior Member
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    From a legal perspective, most courts really don't care one way or another what the parents are doing romantically, unless it has a negative impact on the children or unless the new significant other is overstepping...which happens ALOT...and which is what causes us to focus on that.

    From a moral perspective, the smart parent keeps their romantic relationship completely separate from the child(ren) until such time as they are legally divorced, and even then makes the introduction gradual.
  3. #3
    CJane is offline Senior Member
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    Didn't you say your grandson is about 3 on an emotional/intellectual level?

    My son is 3.5.. sometimes any male person at all is Daddy - even the guy next to us at walmart.

    He calls the Babysitter's Stepfather 'Papa' and every older woman ( ya know, like Ldi's age ) Gramma.

    You don't KNOW that Mom taught the child to call this man daddy. You're grasping at straws.

    But really? How the court feels about things like this varies GREATLY by individual judge and individual circumstances.

    Just remember, you can't claim that 'extended family/3rd party relatives' are vital (as you have in your other thread) and then cry foul when Mom brings in a family extension.
  4. #4
    LdiJ is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by CJane View Post
    Didn't you say your grandson is about 3 on an emotional/intellectual level?

    My son is 3.5.. sometimes any male person at all is Daddy - even the guy next to us at walmart.

    He calls the Babysitter's Stepfather 'Papa' and every older woman ( ya know, like Ldi's age ) Gramma.

    You don't KNOW that Mom taught the child to call this man daddy. You're grasping at straws.

    But really? How the court feels about things like this varies GREATLY by individual judge and individual circumstances.

    Just remember, you can't claim that 'extended family/3rd party relatives' are vital (as you have in your other thread) and then cry foul when Mom brings in a family extension.
    From age 18 months until about 2 1/4 my granddaughter called her mother, me, my mother and all babysitters "mama". It wasn't until about 2 1/4 that she started figuring out that we all had different "titles" and its just about now, at 3 and a couple of months, that she is really figuring out just what all the relationships are. We have lots of discussions about it.

    She has also been saying lately that her mother's boyfriend is her daddy. She doesn't call him daddy, she just states that he is her daddy. We continually explain to her that he is NOT her daddy, but she is still having trouble understanding male relationships, because she has so few of them in her life. She thinks that a male who is around is supposed to be the daddy.
  5. #5
    CJane is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by LdiJ View Post
    From age 18 months until about 2 1/4 my granddaughter called her mother, me, my mother and all babysitters "mama". It wasn't until about 2 1/4 that she started figuring out that we all had different "titles" and its just about now, at 3 and a couple of months, that she is really figuring out just what all the relationships are. We have lots of discussions about it.

    She has also been saying lately that her mother's boyfriend is her daddy. She doesn't call him daddy, she just states that he is her daddy. We continually explain to her that he is NOT her daddy, but she is still having trouble understanding male relationships, because she has so few of them in her life. She thinks that a male who is around is supposed to be the daddy.
    Exactly. Any older guy w/a beard is 'papa'. Doesn't matter if it's Papa Fred, Papa Sam, Papa Frank... they're all papa.

    We also tend to be fluid in that there are lots and lots of honorary aunts and uncles in my family... even honorary grandmas and grandpas. So I tend to place less importance on the 'title' that is conferred upon someone. I'll even freely say that I have 2 dads. I've never distinguished between my step-father and my father... both were always introduced as 'dad' and both walked me down the aisle at my wedding.
  6. #6
    waikoloan is offline Member
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    Thanks LdJ, that is clear enough to me, except I am not sure what you're saying about overstepping. I understand the concept, but are you saying the court cares about overstepping or that this forum does, or both?

    For CJane
    Didn't you say your grandson is about 3 on an emotional/intellectual level?
    Yes, to give you all a general idea. However, his development is uneven; he's more advanced in some areas than others, so he is not treated (including at school) like a 3-year old, but as a 5 year-old with developmental delays in some areas. However, he is more and more showing some signs of other "conditions." He just saw the doctor and the doctor said he should get genetic testing for fetal alcohol syndrome as he has the facial criteria, and another rare genetic disorder.

    Point being that his mind doesn't work just like the average child.
    My son is 3.5.. sometimes any male person at all is Daddy - even the guy next to us at walmart.
    This child has never done that. He is very clear on differentiating. He has an exact unique title for every person in his life, and these are learned names ... whatever he is taught sticks tight. He has never called anyone else Daddy or Papa until now (or Mom, or gramma, etc.)

    You don't KNOW that Mom taught the child to call this man daddy.
    No one else did, and I know he wouldn't unless he were taught to, because one of the accomplishments he's proud of and consistent with is mastering correct names and titles - of everyone in his world. He's VERY concerned with how is world is structured and this is part of it.

    In fact, every phone conversation he has he goes through a list of the same questions.

    What are you doing (your name)? What kind of car do you have (the make and model), then the makes of his mom's car, dad's car, uncle's car, etc.., what is the name of your cat or dog (which one is mine, which one is Mom's, which one is Papa's, which one belongs to other Grandma), what is it doing, where is your house (what town). Over and over and over, fact and name-checking, and until he goes through his set list he won't do regular give and take like how his day at school went.

    So, I understand people reading want to relate to their own children, but this child is different. Kind of a Rain Man quality to the way he collects things and repeats them.

    Now having been told Mom's boyfriend is NOT Daddy, he goes over and over his confusion with questions because he has to unlearn it and change it, and that bothers him, a lot. He doesn't like changing his knowledge once he's absorbed it.

    It wasn't my intent to get in a lot of detail, but since the question came up of whether this could be casual, I needed to explain why I know it isn't, as much as I can without writing a novel. Plus the school emergency card asks what the person is called by the child and Mom wrote DAD next to her BF's name.

    But what I really wanted to know is whether the court cares as much as the forum does, and the answer I am hearing is not really. Although come to think of it, Dad did attend the "kids first" program that's required here, and the judge who hears the cases also teaches the class, and he did say Rule #1 was never use the titles Mom or Dad to refer to any other adult other than the real parent.
  7. #7
    waikoloan is offline Member
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    CJane, while I'm here and you're here , you questioned me in the other topic about Hawai'i statutes on who gets custody, and the chances of legal strangers. My concern was that maternal grandmother wants it.

    I looked it up.
    The presumption is that parents SHOULD get custody:
    (1) Custody should be awarded to either parent or to both parents according to the best interests of the child, and the court also may consider frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact of each parent with the child unless the court finds that a parent is unable to act in the best interest of the child;

    But not absolutely:
    (2) Custody may be awarded to persons other than the father or mother whenever the award serves the best interest of the child. Any person who has had de facto custody of the child in a stable and wholesome home and is a fit and proper person shall be entitled prima facie to an award of custody;

    and re visitation rights:
    (7) Reasonable visitation rights shall be awarded to parents, grandparents, siblings, and any person interested in the welfare of the child in the discretion of the court, unless it is shown that rights of visitation are detrimental to the best interests of the child;

    Note: I do NOT want custody. I like being a grandparent, and no more.

    Anyway, thank you. I didn't really start this topic to continue pressing the merits of this case. I mostly wanted advice on where the courts stand on exposing children to new relationships, as much to steer Dad towards the right course as to point blame at Mom. I was no saint back when I went through divorce, so not a lot of room for me to make moral judgments about jumping into relationships.

    Did my DIL set out to start a new life and cut Dad out of the picture? Absolutely, she had no regard for his parental feelings and has told me that directly, that as his mother she is the only parent that counts. She has had three Dads, and that is her model: one Mom, Dads are there for awhile and they get replaced. She's had a very hard time accepting that Dad has parental rights. Basically it took a court action to bring that home.

    Dad has every reason to think the Dad faux pas is deliberate, coupled with the fact child is now citing BF's rules in contradiction to Dad's. Clearly BF has been given full reign to act parental and as an authority figure. Overstepping more than a little.
  8. #8
    LdiJ is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by waikoloan View Post
    Thanks LdJ, that is clear enough to me, except I am not sure what you're saying about overstepping. I understand the concept, but are you saying the court cares about overstepping or that this forum does, or both?
    Its both. Both the courts and this forum seriously care about overstepping.
  9. #9
    TinkerBelleLuvr is offline Senior Member
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    It wasn't my intent to get in a lot of detail, but since the question came up of whether this could be casual, I needed to explain why I know it isn't, as much as I can without writing a novel. Plus the school emergency card asks what the person is called by the child and Mom wrote DAD next to her BF's name.
    This would be an example of an over-stepping step-mom/dad/GF/ BF.

    Any other example, such as doctor/dentist registration forms would be good also.
  10. #10
    Gum_Drop is offline Member
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    this is just MY personal experience. When I divorced, my kids NEVER met anyone I was dating. The first "other man" my child met is my current husband.

    I didn't think it necessary to parade my catch of the week in front of the kids.

    If your son is wanting to get his feet wet again in the dating world, tell him to leave his little boy out of it for a while.

    It will be more confusing to him to see a different string of lady friends for dad.
  11. #11
    waikoloan is offline Member
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    Sorry to bump this back, but I just saw the replies and want to thank you all.
    LdiJ, thanks for the legal clarification!

    TinkerBelleluvr, thanks for the suggestion; the medical consent for some major dental work was signed by Grandma, who listed herself as guardian, for which she had no legal standing, so I think that meets your description for overstepping?

    Gum_Drop, good advice. I think Dad is wishing he could move on, but in reality he is either at work or with his kid, and they both go to bet at 9pm, so I doubt any "catch of the week" type situation would emerge. He's not interested in that kind of dating anyway. I'm sure he will approach anything with plenty of thought and full consideration.

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