Q: My kids' dad and I have been apart for about a year. I've recently met a great guy and we are planning to move in together, but my kids, ages 11 and 13, are really fighting me. I'm surprised because I am the one who was always around — their dad worked all the time. My ex is taking me back to court because he says it's too soon for us to move in with someone else, and the kids are siding with him! Will I lose my kids if my boyfriend moves in? Can the courts stop me? What's good ex-etiquette?
A: What's good ex-etiquette and what the courts can do are two different things. Moving in with someone isn't necessarily bad behavior, but how you do it might be. Put yourself in your kids' shoes. Because you've always been there, it's predictable that they may not like someone else dividing your attention. Do you spend less time with them now? Does your boyfriend have kids and will they have to share a room? Does he respect them or ignore them? And, last but not least, is the fact that this new guy is sleeping over grossing them out? Have you addressed any of these concerns with the kids?
You must remember that the kids are probably not in the same place that you are. They could still be in mourning over the breakup, and the fact that you're happy and Dad's not can be very difficult on them. Moving too fast can also turn them against your new guy. It's nothing he's done; they just aren't ready.
Finally, courts make decisions in the best interests of the child. But, as emotionally unsettling as all this may be for your children, it's doubtful an order would be made to change custody only because your new partner moved in. 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. If the guy's a keeper he'll be around next year and the kids may then be ready for a new roommate.