Overnight Stays With Children And Girlfriend In Same Home

divorce lawyer Daniel ExnerQuestion:

Concerning introducing the children to significant others, our divorce decree states:

“It is also in the best interest of the minor children that neither parent will have any unrelated overnight guests during their visits with the minor children and will not introduce the minor children to people whom they are casually dating or involved with romantically until said party has dated that person for a minimum of four months and is in a serious committed relationship with that person.”

My ex-wife takes that to mean the minor children will never sleep over at an unrelated persons home even with me until they are 18 years old. I take that to mean if I am in a committed relationship for more than four months the children can sleep over.

Whose interpretation is correct?

Answer:

I am not licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction, but I can provide you with a general answer to your divorce and child custody question.

Your problem deals with ambiguity and conjunctives. Both you and your ex-wife could be right depending on the interpretation of the order. Let’s focus on the problem with the order:

It is also in the best interest of the minor children that neither parent will have any unrelated overnight guests during their visits with the minor children and will not introduce the minor children to people whom they are casually dating or involved with romantically until said party has dated that person for a minimum of four months and is in a serious committed relationship with that person.

Based on this structure, the provision could mean (1) neither parent will have any unrelated overnight guests during their visits with the minor children until said party has dated that person for a minimum of four months and is in a serious relationship; and (2) neither parent will introduce the minor children to people whom they are casually dating or involved with romantically until said party has dated that person for four months.

On the other hand, the provision could mean (1) neither parent will have any unrelated overnight guests during their visits with the minor children; and (2) neither parent will introduce the minor children to people whom they are casually dating until four months.

The problem is whether the conjunctive “and” attaches the “until” language to both phrases or separates the phrases entirely. The answer to the question determines who is right.

A court would ultimately need to determine which interpretation is correct if this is at issue. Since the answer is not apparent, the court could delve into extrinsic evidence like the conversations you and your ex-wife had on the issue.

Did you agree to this provision with your wife with the understanding that it precluded your children from overnights with new relationships? Are there any documents or letters that reflect the provision’s meaning? Did the court explain what this provision meant during your final hearing?

Should you believe that your judgment allows overnight stays after four months, and you effectuate such an encounter, your ex-wife may chose to file a contempt motion against you. If this happens, your job will be to prove that your interpretation is correct.

If you have any extrinsic evidence (i.e. communications of any kind between you and your wife or the court that explain the provision), you should be prepared to present them in court. If nothing exists, the court will be forced to apply its own judgment and proceed accordingly.

To fully advise you on your situation, a complete understanding of your situation is necessary. I recommend contacting a family law attorney to review your case.

Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide. To schedule an appointment with a divorce attorney, including Milwaukee Divorce Lawyer Daniel Exner, please contact Cordell & Cordell.

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