After a couple gets a divorce, it is expected that at some point in time, one or both of them will begin dating and become involved with other people. When there are children, it is important to understand that these new people must not be introduced without thought to how the new relationships will impact the kids. It is possible to impose legal restrictions on these interactions through the use of “DeVita restraints.”
A DeVita restraint arises out of a New Jersey court decision where it was determined that the moral welfare of a child was endangered because of staying in the residence with his father and his father’s new girlfriend. Although these restrictions may still be enforced to a certain degree, there has been a recent case that modifies the way in which parents may limit their children’s exposure to the new boyfriends or girlfriends of the former spouse. In the case of Mantle v. Mantle, FM-15-656-15 (March 9, 2015), the court addressed a case where parents had an agreement about a restriction on introducing their child to new partners of the parents. The problem was that there was no expiration to the agreement and no provisions relating to the review of the agreement. Ms. Mantle attempted to enforce the agreement after there was contact between her ex-husband’s girlfriend and her son.
The trial court determined that an open-ended agreement, such as the one that the parties had, was not enforceable under the law based on the changes in societal norms. The trial court did state that the judiciary should remain focused on the best interests of the child and analyze the underlying motivations of the parents who would seek to enforce long-term restrictive agreements. The trial court stated that there were times when the restrictions would be appropriate. It was simply that an unlimited prohibition on interaction between an ex-spouse and a new significant other was not enforceable absent a showing of inappropriate conduct or harmful acts on the part of the new love interest.
In the end, the Mantle court found that keeping a child from meeting the new partner for six months and delaying a situation where the child and the significant other slept in the same residence for a year was reasonable. If you are a parent going through a divorce attempting to create reasonable limitations on introducing new people into the lives of your children, you should consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
The Bronzino Law Firm Advocates for Clients and Their Children
New Jersey Family Law Attorney Peter J. Bronzino understands that a divorce has far-reaching consequences for all the parties involved. Minimizing the stress on a parent and his or her children is a strong focus for our firm. The Bronzino Law Firm is located in Brick, New Jersey. We serve clients in Monmouth County, Ocean County, and the surrounding area. If you have questions about obtaining a divorce in New Jersey, enforcing parental rights, or modifying a previously entered order, schedule a free consultation by calling us toll free at (732) 812-3102.