Divorces can be both stressful and emotionally confusing. Oftentimes, people who feel ready to enter into a new relationship during or immediately after a divorce are faced with the decision of whether to allow their new romantic interest to spend the night at their house. However, overnight stays during divorce might have unfortunate legal and practical consequences. The presence of children could also further exacerbate these legal issues.
The Consequences of an Overnight Stay
Allowing a new partner to stay overnight might have an effect on a person’s ability to receive spousal support, depending on the exact terms of the support agreement. This is because the default rule in support agreements, under section 510(c) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, allows the supporting spouse’s obligation to end once the supported spouse begins romantically cohabiting with someone else. While a single overnight stay is probably not enough to qualify as cohabitation, the court will look at a variety of factors, including:
· The relationship’s length;
· The amount of time the people spend together;
· What sort of activities the couple does together;
· How entwined the couple’s lives are; and
· Whether the couple spends vacations and holidays together.
Overnight stays during divorce can also have practical consequences, especially in the case of a jealous or abusive former spouse. Jealous spouses who become aware of these sorts of stays may become more intractable or difficult to negotiate with during the divorce proceedings. Additionally, abusive former spouses who become aware of these stays by virtue of discovery in the divorce process may be driven to acts of harassment or violence.
The Presence of Children
If the divorce also involved issues of child custody, then having an overnight stay during divorce could result in even more problems. Leaving aside the effect that the new relationship might have on the children who are already going through a difficult emotional time, the decision to allow a partner to stay the night could have consequences for child custody.
If there is evidence that the new relationship is being entered into casually, or that there has been a string of different people staying over, then the child’s other parent may be able to use that as evidence of poor decision making that could be harmful to the child.
Conversely, if the relationship is more serious, then it is possible that the court would want the new partner to submit to an evaluation by the court. This person could be spending a significant amount time around the children, which means that the court might need to factor them into decisions about child custody.
If you are considering filing for divorce, and would like more information about how the process works, seek out a DuPage County divorce lawyer today. Our firm can help advise you during these complex and emotionally-charged proceedings.