Dear Dr. Jann: My kids’ dad and I have been apart for about a year. We share the kids time equally. I’ve recently met a great guy and we’re planning to move in together, but my kids are upset and threatening to live with their dad. This is surprising because I was the one who was always there for them. Their dad traveled and was rarely home. Now he’s taking me back to court because of what he feels is bad judgment! Will I lose my kids if I move in with my boyfriend?
Dr. Jann: Moving in with someone isn’t necessarily bad judgment—but how you do it might be. You said you’re surprised that the kids are fighting you because you’ve always been there. If that’s the truth, it’s predictable that they may not like someone else dividing your attention. Plus, their life changed substantially only a year ago when you broke up with their dad. Their life is about to change again and that can be very unsettling.
Let’s examine what your kids might be fearing:
- Do you spend less time with them now that you have a boyfriend? Does your boyfriend have kids and will they have to share a room when they visit?
- Does your boyfriend engage your kids in conversation or does he ignore them?
- Does the fact that this new guy is sleeping over so soon after the break-up make them uncomfortable?
After a turbulent relationship, it’s not uncommon to get caught up in the newness of it all—but you must not forget that the kids are probably not in the same place you are. They could still be in mourning over your break-up with dad and the fact that you’re happy and dad’s not can be very difficult to accept as they go back and forth between homes. As a result, they want to protect dad and so they side with him. Moving too fast can also sabotage the kids’ relationship with your boyfriend. It’s not necessarily anything he’s done–they just aren’t ready.
Finally, courts make their decisions in the best interest of the children. But, it’s doubtful a change in custody will be made based on the fact that you want to move in with your new partner. Just remember, even if a judge signs off on an order, he or she doesn’t know your kids. Ask yourself if this is really the right thing to do for YOUR kids, and if it’s not, don’t do it right now. If your guy’s a keeper he’ll be around next year when hopefully the kids will be more ready for a new roommate.