As you are already aware (because you’ve given it some thought and you’ve read my FAQ), that your divorce will require a lot of difficult choices. You’re going to find yourself in a position where you have to divide your possessions, be responsible for all your own expenses (while possibly still supporting your spouse), and share the parenting duties with someone you don’t want to be married to any more.
However, divorce can offer the unsuspecting participant some ugly surprises. One of these is what’s called the “paramour provision” in a Tennessee parenting plan. This is a paragraph often added that prohibits either spouse from allowing their boyfriend or girlfriend from staying overnight while the children are in the home.
This limitation is normally not too big a deal for the parent who has the children less often. After all, if the parenting plan gives you every other weekend and some holidays with the kids, the girlfriend can find somewhere else to be on those nights.
However, this can be a big problem for the primary parent, as this limitation can put a damper on dating relationships, and will preclude the parent from being able to live with someone before deciding whether or not they should get married.
The birth of the paramour provision
Many courts began to add this provision to a parenting plan automatically based on a “common sense” understanding that that the children could suffer adverse affects by being exposed to such things as drugs, alcohol abuse, and the overnight visits of their parents paramour.
I’ll stick my neck out and suppose that many child psychologists would agree that in a situation where the parent should have a revolving door on their bedroom, the kids would probably be disturbed by having breakfast with a different person every few days. To them it’s stressful, it’s confusing, and the other parent should not have to sit by idly and let their kids be exposed to this sort of thing.
And yes, I hear you out there. You’re not like that. You wouldn’t expose your kids to that nonsense. You’re very careful about the kind of people you bring around your children. Why should you be punished because other people are idiots?
Because its a lot of work for a court to judge the ability of each parent to choose future boyfriends or girlfriends who will be a positive influence on the kids. The courts also don’t want to constantly hear from a parent every time their ex-spouse starts dating somebody new. So, it’s just easier to lay down a blanket rule preventing anybody from having an overnight visit with their paramour while the kids are in the house. As a result, some courts require this provision in every parenting plan.
Even if the court doesn’t require the paramour provision in every parenting plan, the judge is likely to add it if either spouse requests it. Even if the requesting spouse can’t come up with a valid reason why he wants the provision added.
The rules are changing
The only thing that is truly constant in the law is that it’s constantly changing. In my next post I’m going to write about a recent case which is the beginning of change on this issue. The paramour provision will never completely go away, there are too many cases where the parents deserve to have such a limitation in place. However, the best interests of the children are always most important, and it may not always be in the kid’s best interests to keep their parents partners away.
If you are in a situation where paramour sleepovers is an issue, you should consult with an attorney to find out what you need to do. Contact me to find out how I can help.