Of course you want to date! There is absolutely no need to be ashamed of yourself for wanting companionship. Parents are still human beings after having children, after all. Especially in New Orleans, where there are so many social happenings and such a lively nightlife scene, the opportunities are certainly there for single parents to have a dating life outside of their parenting life. Wanting a “grownup life” outside of your life as a mom or a dad is absolutely healthy and normal.
Just because it’s okay to want to date, however, doesn’t mean it’s not a tricky area when you have kids. Regardless of how peaceful or stable you think your co-parent is in your custody situation, you can never be too careful about covering all of your bases. We know that nothing, including boyfriends or girlfriends, is worth sacrificing your time with your child.
To help navigate the very muddy waters of dating during child custody proceedings, here are some general guidelines. Please remember, these guidelines may not apply if you are going through or have had a divorce with your co-parent. Introducing dating partners during or after a divorce can have all kinds of legal implications that must be discussed with your attorney first.
DO your due diligence about any person you decide to start seeing on a regular basis.
The baggage of a person’s life before they met you can carry over into yours whether they tell you about it or not. If a person has a criminal background or anything else in their past that seems unstable or volatile, it can ultimately reflect poorly on your character in court. Be careful, be mindful, and do your research.
DON’T expose your child to multiple dating partners.
If you are not ready for something serious, that is fine. Be aware that you should try to keep that part of your life away from your child. Introducing your child to your boyfriend or girlfriend is extremely serious and should be planned out as much as possible ahead of time to avoid any glimmer of perceived instability. You should consider introducing your child to your significant other if you are in a stable relationship, and you should always discuss it with your attorney first.
On that note,
DO utilize every resource you can to help you and your child navigate your new life together.
Mental health experts and school counselors are wonderful, helpful resources when you want to consider introducing your child to your significant other. In a new romance, it can be very difficult sometimes to get a practical perspective on this possible alteration in your family life. These professionals can help you assess your child’s readiness for this kind of change, or if you should go through with it at all.
DON’T ignore your instincts.
Deep down, you will know if your child is ready to meet your significant other. You also should not ignore red flags in a new relationship. As important as it is for you to protect yourself while dating, you also have your child to think of in this regard. Domestic violence and abuse is unfortunately extremely prevalent in the world that we live in. Learn the signs, and never ignore your gut.
DO make sure to consult with your child custody attorney before every major dating milestone, especially before allowing your significant other to have overnight visits in your home.
It’s always better to go into these situations with full clarity about how the court will view your familial adjustments. Remember, there is a good chance that any change in your living circumstances will be discussed in custody court. What you might perceive to be a small oversight could potentially upend a formerly stable child custody agreement. Always talk to your attorney first.
DON’T refuse to listen “in the name of love”.
If you’ve surrounded yourself with experts and qualified professionals who have your best interests at heart, you need to take the next logical step and listen to what they have to say. You might not love their input, but if it saves you time outside of the courthouse, money in legal fees, or, worse yet, damage to your life with your child, it is more than worth it to listen. When you’re young and childless, you might have been able to think with your heart and not your head and gotten along just fine. Once you have a little one to take care of, however, practicality and good sense are more important than ever.