Question: My ex-husband and I divorced a few years ago. He was a workaholic, and I think that caused a strain on our marriage that ultimately led to our divorce.
We worked out a parenting plan where we would have “equal” custody of the children. I think that he insisted on an “equal” plan because he realized that plan meant paying less in child support. As it stands, I parent the kids much more than half of the time. Although it irks me that he has found a way to reduce the payment of support, I am happy to have the kids for more time.
I mentioned to my ex that my boyfriend may be moving in with me, and this has caused new tension between me and my ex. My ex has been making some remarks about how he might not “approve” of my boyfriend around the kids, and he has also mentioned that he shouldn’t be spending so much time at work and paying as much in support now that my housing cost should be effectively one-half of what it is now.
Does my ex have any right to interfere with my new relationship? And will my new living arrangement have an impact on the amount of my support?
Answer: Your ex cannot control your relationship with your new boyfriend. No one can. In fact, you could start dating the most loathsome man imaginable, and he cannot stop you. That choice is yours.
But as a divorced couple with minor children, your parenting plan is under the ultimate control of the court. If he is able to persuade the court that your new beau is really a beast and that the current parenting plan is not in the best interest of the children, then you may find yourself deciding whether you want to spend time with the kids or your new boyfriend.
But in all likelihood, the court will not force you to make such a choice. Unless your new boyfriend is a registered sex offender or presents some other harm to the children, the court will presume that each of you as parents will make good choices on who you choose to have around your children.
That said, it makes sense to take things slow when it comes to introducing children to any new partner, especially when the new partner is moving in. Children, especially young ones, can quickly develop deep emotional attachments. It is painful enough if a dating relationship falls apart, but it can be a real shock to children who have already experienced a divorce.
As for financial support, it will depend on what kind of support you receive from your ex. If you receive alimony, or spousal support, then your “cohabitation” with another person may constitute a reason for reducing or even terminating your spousal support.
If you only receive child support, then your new living arrangements should have no impact on the amount of support you receive. In California, most child support amounts are set by a state guideline provided in the Family Code. The state has a formula based on the net income of each spouse and the amount of time that a child spends with each parent. So your greater timeshare should result in an increased amount of support.
If your ex works more than full time, then the law allows him to reduce his work hours to a normal 40-hour week, without consequences. In certain cases, courts have ruled that the law will not force a party to work more than a full-time schedule, even if that person had traditionally worked an 80-hour week. If, however, he decided to quit work altogether or reduce his hours dramatically, the court has the authority to issue a support order based on what he would be making if he were working normal full-time hours.
Your ex may be a little uneasy with your new relationship, and it sounds like he may be trying to get a reaction from you. You would be well advised to not take the bait. Keep your communications civil, and if changes are necessary, see if the two of you can come to an agreement rather than fighting in court.
Preston Morgan is a partner at Kopper, Morgan & Dietrich, a Davis law firm providing family law, estate planning and trust litigation representation. His column is published every other week in the Davis Enterprise. To pose a question to Preston Morgan, contact him at https://kopperlaw.com.
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