How Remarriage or Cohabitation May Affect a Custody Case


New relationships can present a host of problems in custody cases.  They can also be the catalyst for modifications or new filings.  However, a loving, stable relationship between a parent, their new spouse or paramour, and the child can also be in the best interest of the child. 

When one parent remarries or is cohabitating with a new partner, the court may look at several aspects when determining the best interest of the children.  Among these may be:

  1. The marrying parent’s relationship history.  Have they had a series of serious relationships/marriages that have ended quickly or badly?

  2. What about the character of the spouse or paramour and their ability or desire to parent the child?

  3. The bond between the parent’s new partner and the child.

  4. The number of children coming into the relationship (step-children, half-siblings, etc.).

The court is ultimately tasked with determining what is in the best of interest of the child.  This means that a court should not automatically side in favor of a two-person household over a single-person household.   Testimony and evidence from the new partner to show a desire and ability to parent the child (or lack thereof) is important to any custody case.  Courts have even remanded cases where there was a lack of testimony from the spouse stating their willingness to parent the child as their own. See J.F.G. v. K.A.G., 278 (Pa. Super. 25, 419, A. 2d 13337 1980). 

Often the new partner’s presence may have an affect on the sixteen factors, such as the availability of extended family, siblings, ability to provide adequate childcare, and others.  To see a full list of the factors, click here.