A sad girl with her toy
A sad girl huddle herself up in a dark room

Courts award child custody based on the best interests of the children. While having a live-in companion does not disqualify parents from winning custody of their children, the companion is another factor the court must consider. Live-in relationships should be factored into the divorce settlement to reduce the impact on parenting rights or prevent loss of custody.

Live-in Companions Must Be Considered

A live-in companion adds an unknown dynamic to the dissolution of a marriage. While there is no prohibition against divorcing couples having relationships with others during or after a divorce proceeding, a parent’s need for a personal relationship with another adult is secondary to the welfare of children.

Under Illinois law, courts must act in the best interests of children when awarding custody. Because live-in companions may have an unknown, or even negative effect, on children, they must be considered by the court before awarding custody.

Possible Concerns About Live-ins

Divorce is especially difficult for many children. The anxiety they experience can be compounded when a parent has a live-in companion.

To lessen the trauma and ensure the safety of children, a child custody attorney often works with the court to examine the companion relationship and answer questions such as:

  • Has the live-in companion been convicted of serious crime and will the relationship expose a child to illegal activity?
  • Will the child be safe?
  • Will there be any negative or improper influences on the child’s emotional development?
  • Will the live-in relationship have any effect on the child’s health, nutritional, educational, social and other needs?
  • Does the parent intend to relocate locally or out of state with the live-in companion
  • Will there be any impact on the custody rights of the other parent?

The court will require satisfactory answers to these and other questions before granting custody to a parent in a live-in relationship.

Best Advice

Parents are not required to remain without a companion after a divorce, but choosing the companion and timing the relationship are critical. The best advice is to avoid any live-in relationships during the divorce process.

If a parent is already in a live-in relationship or plans to be in one soon after the divorce, it is important to make sure the court is aware. A well-structured custody agreement that includes arrangements for the live-in companion can help protect a parent’s custody rights.