“My ex-man brought his new girlfriend. She’s like “Oh, my god!” but I’m just gonna shake….Shake it off, I shake it off.” Although relatively easy for Taylor Swift, in the realm of divorce, many litigants unfortunately find it difficult to simply “shake off” the fact that their husband/wife has filled their “Blank Space” by dating someone else; and even more difficult to “shake off” the fact that their children may be introduced to this significant other.
In the recent unpublished decision of Mantle v. Mantle, the Court was faced with whether to enforce a “DeVita” restraint, which is utilized to prevent the amount of exposure a divorcing parent may permit a child to have with the parent’s new girlfriend/boyfriend. Ultimately, the Trial Court in Mantle confirmed that exposing a child to a new dating partner, or even allowing a dating partner to stay overnight, is not per se inappropriate and contrary to child’s welfare and best interests. However, this came with some significant caveats, and the understanding that the dating partner has acted, and will continue to act, appropriately around the child. First, divorce is not like a Band-Aid, in which you can simple tear-off the old relationship and replace it with a new one. The Court was cognizant that children should not be thrust into an emotionally overloading situation overnight, and that a gradual transition and introduction over a reasonable period was appropriate so long as the restraints are reasonable and sensible. Obviously, notwithstanding the Court’s determination that exposing a child to a new dating partner was not per se inappropriate, it is the best interests of the children that always remain paramount. Should a new dating partner act inappropriately around a child, or even go so far as to verbally harass, torment or abuse the child physically, the Courts are always available to entertain necessary restrictions to protect the child’s interests. Although many individuals going through divorce think that they will never date or marry again, the Court acknowledged that human nature proves otherwise. People seek companionship, and it’s likely that divorcing spouses will enter into new relationships with new partners. Although the timing may vary, the Court noted that a new relationship is a natural and constructive step into moving on from one of the more difficult times in an individual’s life. Although it may be hard to initially come to terms with a significant other being introduced to your children, it may ultimately be easier to simply, in the words of Taylor Swift, “Shake it off” and move forward.