A while back, Katie Alison Granju wrote about Tennessee changing its divorce by way of court decree forbidding judges from forbidding “sleep-overs” between a parent and significant other, post-divorce. Granju isn’t sure what to think:

As for me, I admit that I’m kind of torn on this one. On the one hand, I do struggle with a deep-seated, somewhat kneejerk distaste for the idea of kids waking up to mom or dad’s latest hook-up reading the sportspages in the breakfast nook. Additionally, I don’t think that a parent who has gone through the hell of seeing his or her marriage end in whole or in part due to infidelity should have to endure the secondary pain of begging a judge to keep the third party in the marital break-up from spending the night in a home where the children are present.

But on the other hand, a blanket ban is clearly discriminatory toward gay parents, who have no ability to marry their romantic partners in Tennessee, and thus, under a blanket ban they wouldbe de facto barred from ever again having a meaningful family relationship with another adult until the children were grown and gone. Plus, I’m kind of with the libertarians on this one in that I don’t want the courts telling me how to raise my kids and run my household unless and until I clearly demonstrate that my behavior is causing real harm to my offspring.

I find the reasoning in the second paragraph to be a little weak. This isn’t about an automatic ban, but rather one that a judge can issue or not issue. Presumably, a gay couple would be more likely to say “live and let live” since neither one of them can marry (in Tennessee, at any rate, at the present time). It’s straight couples, where marriage is at least an option, where one partner or the other might say “You/we can wait until we’re remarried.”

But it is an interesting question and I guess in the overall I am similarly conflicted. Bans can be enforced if the other parent can prove some specific harm, but it’s hard to prove harm without making divorce proceedings much more acrimonious than they would already be. “My soon-to-be former spouse is a slut, your honor.” or even better, “My ex-husband has demonstrated a history of having bad taste in women. Uhmm, except me!”

One of the thoughts that comes to my mind is that such a ban is convenient to ask for in the event that one side or the other remarries quickly. You know, if maybe they already had their spouse picked out before the papers were files. It would strike me as a double-whammy for a cheater to turn around and say “No sleepovers until you are re-married like I am now!”

On the other hand, in cases of joint custody, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to say “Hey, you can have the sleepovers when the kids are at the other parents’ house.” Of course, that only works if the kids bounce back and forth. It becomes a little more complicated when one does have the kids around almost all of the time.

I think I lean slightly in favor of allowing sleepovers absent the demonstration of harm of one sort or another. I can think of instances where I would not want it to happen, but the scenarios are so variable and diverse that I am not sure how much faith I would have in a judge correctly sussing it out.

Category: Courthouse

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4 Responses to Divorced Parent Sleepovers

  1. Burt Likko says:

    Some people are bad parents who have no class and think nothing of bringing their hookup home to do the nasty right there where their kids can hear what’s going on. This demonstrates at best a lack of class, and likely also a lack of consideration for their children, offensive narcissism, and in some cases, a lack of self-respect for themselves as parents.

    But the state has no interest in this at all, absent a credible demonstration of material harm to the children resulting from it.

  2. trumwill says:

    A fair perspective.

  3. web says:

    It’s a matter of societal prudishness that this is even a question. In most earlier societies, Europe included, kids could hear everything, all the time – it’s hard to avoid hearing it when the entire family is in a much smaller space.

    There’s little yick factor difference between “little bobby heard his parents having sex” and “little bobby is hearing daddy get it on with someone who’s not mommy.”

    All the “no sleepovers” prohibitions really do is try to create the illusion (for the kid? for the other parent?) that one parent or the other hasn’t moved on with their life following the dissolution of the marriage. The added “benefit”, if one spouse is vindictive enough, is to cause friction/trouble in the ex-spouse’s future relationships – part of the “I don’t want you but nobody else can have you” dynamic sometimes seen in vindictive/acrimonious divorces where one party or the other is engaged in revenge-seeking behavior.

  4. ? says:

    Gay parents? Normally, I’d be all about the nefarious power of the pink lobby, but invoking it here is just a smoke screen. This is about removing any impediments to Mom tossing Dad out of the house in favor of her new flame. Feminism is the culprit here.

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