A common concern for parents after separation is the introduction of new partners (either theirs, or their ex’s) to their children. Separated parents often have very different expectations for how, and when, new partners should be introduced to their children. When in the midst of a separation, parents often ask whether they have any legal right or ability to refuse to allow the introduction of a new partner to their children.
Generally speaking, the quick answer is: no, not really. Unless otherwise agreed to (via separation agreement) or directed (via Arbitration Award or Court Order), parents are generally at liberty to do what they believe to be in their children’s best interests, including introducing them to new partners when they see fit. Unless the introduction of a new partner poses some kind of harm to the children, it is unlikely that a parent would be able to reasonably prevent the inevitable introduction. However, if there are concerns over the children’s health, safety or well-being, or if a parent is not cooperating with an existing custody and access regime, a Court may consider the possibility of disallowing the introduction or involvement of a new partner.
In Billard v Billard,  NSJ No. 350, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court considered, among other things, the appropriateness of the introduction of a new partner to a 4-year old child. In that case, the parties had discussed and agreed to a slow introduction of new partners. The parties had also agreed that the child would not be taken overnight to a new partner’s home.
However, when the mother discovered that the child was spending time at the home of the father’s new girlfriend, she raised safety concerns about the presence of a large pit bull dog and a ball python. The mother also requested the address of the fathers’ girlfriends’ home, which was not provided. The situation culminated in the mother removing the child from the new girlfriends’ home one evening. The girlfriend had been caring for the child while the father was out.
According to the Court, this incident “significantly eroded the relationship between the parties.” The Court found that the mothers’ concerns with the dog and the snake were reasonable and that, had the father “responded to her enquiry, and had she attended the home to review the arrangements, those concerns may have been assuaged.” However, while the mother testified that her reason for removing the child from the fathers’ girlfriends’ home was because he was sick, the Court found that the “real reason she retrieved [the child] that night was because she felt [the father] had broken his promise to not have [the child] overnight at his girlfriends’ home.”
Ultimately, the Court did not limit the new girlfriends’ involvement with the child, nor direct that the child was unable to spend time at the new girlfriends’ home. However, the Court did direct the father to “educate himself and his new partner on [the child’s] medical needs and food sensitivities.” Moreover, the Court also directed that, in the event that the father was required to be away for work unrelated to his regular schedule, or for other reasons for longer than 6 hours, he was required to provide the mother with the option of resuming care of the child, for so long as he was unavailable.