Introducing new partners is a big transition for everyone, especially the children of divorce. coParents should remain the parenting leaders even with new partners.

This can be a time of heightened anxiety, concerns about “what’s going to happen next,” who’s in charge, and how will this impact me? The children and your coParent will likely need reassurance that all will not be changed regarding the hard-earned or budding family stability.

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The new partner/adult in the children’s lives has his/her own anxieties and uncertainties. There may be other children to consider as well. To the extent that it’s possible, hold your coParenting relationship in a primary position with regard to your children. As enticing as it may be to switch coParenting loyalty to your new partner or try to create a happy threesome (your new partner, your coParent and yourself), that may result in enormous disruption without respectful planning and sensitivity to timing.

  • If possible, inform the other parent of your intention to introduce a new partner. Dating information may be hard to hear as an ex-partner, but is useful to know as a parent who provides children positive emotional support and reassurance that everything’s OK when they return from residential time with their other parent.
  • Parents remain the leaders on behalf of their children and make the important kid-related decisions, even if new partners become part of the family. Until there’s adequate time to assess how the adults will work together, new relationships are built, and new agreements are forged from a place of respect, trust and goodwill, the coParenting agreements in place between the two of you remain the cornerstones for your children’s sense of security and family life.
  • Parents should help their new partners become familiar with the coParenting arrangements and agreements, and support him/her in lending a role in the family that respects his/her place in the household as well as existing family relationships across the two-home family.

Written by Karen Bonnell from The Co-Parents’ Handbook.


About Karen Bonnell

Karen has over 25 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families facing transition, loss, stress and change. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Karen has been Board certified and licensed as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner since 1982. She served on the faculty of University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University & Seattle Pacific University before beginning full-time private practice in 1984. She continues to be a provider of Professional Continuing Education to both health care and legal professionals.

Karen served on the Board of King County Collaborative Law and Collaborative Professionals of Washington. She is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and Academy of Professional Family Mediators.

Her work is found through Unhooked Books: