Co-Parenting After Adultery?

Actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner were married June 29th, 2005 and separated in June 2015; they share three children ages 13, 9 and 6. The couple allegedly split due to Affleck’s numerous extra-marital affairs. Affleck and Garner are still in the divorce process; this week, the couple was in the headlines because (allegedly) Garner does not want Affleck’s current partner, Lindsay Shookus, around the children, as she is one of the women with whom Affleck had an extra-marital affair.

ADULTERY IN ONTARIO: CAN YOU LOSE CUSTODY IF YOU HAD AN AFFAIR?

The short answer is, generally, no. Past conduct of a parent is irrelevant in determining custody/access unless that conduct impacts their effectiveness to parent the child (section 24(3) of the Children’s Law Reform Act).

ADULTERY IN ONTARIO: CAN YOU KEEP YOUR EX’S (NEW) PARTNER (FROM AN AFFAIR) AWAY FROM YOUR CHILDREN?

The short answer is, generally, no. Unless there are concerns that your child’s safety is (or could reasonably be) in danger or that their needs will (or may) not be met by your partner or their new partner, then there are no legal grounds from barring your ex’s new partner from establishing a relationship with your children – even if your ex had an extra-marital affair with their current partner.

ADULTERY IN ONTARIO: HOW CAN WE MOVE ON AND CO-PARENT?

Adultery can wreak havoc on the stability and cohesion of a family unit. Typically, the bonds of trust are shattered and the baggage of emotional pain piles up. It is not uncommon for hurt, resentment and anger to set it in and, for many, it is extremely difficult to revive any semblance of a relationship. It is not uncommon, for adultery to result in separation and divorce. When adultery leads to separation/divorce, family mediation can help the couple learn how to co-parent by addressing the infidelity and their emotions surrounding it, and establish positive communication techniques.

CAN WE MEDIATE? 

Family Mediation is a voluntary process where a trained professional (a mediator) helps (ex)-partners communicate/negotiate in a productive and safe way. Typically, (ex)-partners who turn to mediation can, with the assistance of a mediator, negotiate an agreement regarding property division, support & child custody. However, unlike other dispute resolution processes such as Court or Arbitration, the parties to a mediation are not limited to only discussing legal matters. Emotional issues, such as those which stem from adultery, can impact how one partner feels about legal issues such as custody issues (as exemplified in the Affleck/Garner case) and it is well acknowledged among mediators, that the emotional issues underlying one’s position must be worked through for a mutually-satisfactory settlement to be reached.

At Family Mediation and Resources, our mediators have extensive experience working with families who are separating/divorcing after adultery. Our co-mediation model, which has a family lawyer and a mental health professional mediating together, allows (ex)-partners to address emotional issues and learn how to establish a positive co-parenting relationship going forward.

About the author (Eva DiGiammarino)
Eva DiGiammarino is a Family Mediator and a Lawyer. Eva volunteers with Family Mediation & Resources and is passionate about educating families about the law and their options to resolve their matters outside of the court.