Thursday, January 1, 2009

Are "Sleep Overs" Allowed?

Fans of the just-ended series, Boston Legal, will remember the silly question that Alan and Denny frequently asked, "Sleep over?". On that show, it was often part of the end of the episode banter between the two lawyers. If you enjoyed the unusual humor of the show, you probably chuckled when the question came up.

In real life, the sleep over question comes up sometimes in post-divorce relationships where there are minor children still in the home. Sam Hasler, who writes an excellent blog called Sam Hasler's Indiana Divorce & Family Law Blog, had a recent post about the sleep over issue in Indiana and how their new visitation schedule will deal with the issue.

The issue still arises in Texas when a parent begins a relationship with someone new and wants to have the new romantic partner spend the night when the children are present. Our standard visitation schedule doesn't address the problem. There is actually no absolute answer to the question in Texas. Most often, it comes down to what the local judge will permit and the judge will have a lot of latitude to decide. There are, of course, moral issues which are paramount and clear cut for some people. Others may not hold the same moral position and that's where the courts come in.

If you are not dealing with this as a moral issue, the bottom line becomes what's in the children's best interest. Most judges, in Tarrant County at least, discourage ("prohibit") sleep overs until the parent is married to the new person, although that can vary a little based on the children's ages and the length of the relationship with the new adult. Some judges and child specialists will recommend not even bringing around a new paramour until the parent has been dating that person for 6 months to a year. Some parents will be impatient with that, but it normally will be in the children's best interest to avoid bringing a variety of new prospective step-parents.

Sometimes the court will explicitly order no sleep overs. Even without such an order, parents should think twice about bringing strangers around their children and keep in mind how confusing and upsetting the experience may be for the children. If regular visitation is taking place, or if time is being split pretty equally (which is getting to be more common), there will be plenty of opportunities for the parent to pursue dating activities with one or more adults without the children present. When the parent has the children, it's probably going to be better to focus on the children instead of splitting one's attention between the children and a boy/girlfriend.

If you think about what's best for the children, instead of just what would be more fun for you, the answer is pretty easy. What do you think?


Sam Hasler said...

Thanks for the compliment about my blog.

Although I think there may be a bit of difference between Texas and Indiana law, I think the point remains the same: discretion is the better course of action.

Anonymous said...

I think that is the ultimate answer. Protecting the children should be the highest priority.

aml06 said...

Is there anything I can do, to stop my 4yr old dad from letting him sleep with him and his new girlfriend

jennkellett00 said...

I agree that the Childs interest in priority #1, ALWAYS. But I am the GF of someone who recently, after a long struggle on agreeing is finally divorced from his Ex. When she was the one who cheated, & has for quite sometime been bringing their son around her new BF/boss. So this rule was put in their papers with no time period as to when it no longer applies. I do not agree with this,maybe after 6 months. I do understand that stupid rules are made for stupid reasons. AKA, what aml06 has to deal with & because of what my BF's ex is doing. It's all about discretion, if as adults, we want to spend time together after the child is asleep, then that should be our choice. Again with the childs best interest in mind. I'm just not a fan of Texas or their laws and thats a personal problem, lol. Thank you for your blog, it was helpful to me.