When the New Partners Get Involved

No divorce is the same, and some drag on so long that new romantic partners enter the picture post separation before all legal matters are settled. This isn’t scandalous; in my view, children should see their parents in happy loving relationships, and as long as nothing is covert or hidden, part of the process of moving on in a healthy way. The new partners are understandably protective and concerned for their person’s well being, and don’t always stand on the sidelines.

It needs to be made clear that, notwithstanding all the good intentions in the world, my only client in the transaction is the actual seller(s), not their new love interests. To put it bluntly, the agent cannot answer to the new partner, and it’s awkward and improper to ask us to do so absent a power of attorney or new marriage, and even then if they aren’t on the deed, they can’t really be the client. A new boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiancĂ© often means well but I am not their fiduciary. I can’t promise them anything. I can’t make representations to them. They are third parties. Moreover, as well intentioned as they may be, they lack context and often lose sight of the job of the agent, which is to sell the marital home for the best possible terms to both parties. I cannot be an instrument is settling any other scores, and I cannot heed the wishes of a third party.

Settling old scores or muddying up the waters with non-transactional matters is an issue with the new love interest being involved, although the nature of the interference is subordinate to the fact that it is interference. This is so even for non divorce transactions, as I can recall one particular single man whose house I sold during the down market. The house needed lots of work, and one deal was lost when the buyer learned a sex offender lived nearby (spoiler alert: if you live anywhere in Westchester or Putnam counties, or planet earth for that matter, you’ll never be that far from a registered sex offender). Something like that was beyond my control, but when she got involved the anxiety for all parties rose more than a little. I appreciated the eagerness, I just needed fewer people in the kitchen as it were.

I myself was the new partner when my wife was selling her old marital home with her ex husband. Given that we had gotten to the point where I had met their kids (and I was a broker) and the house was listed before I even knew her, I refrained from discussing anything about the process and had no contact with the agents. I’ve written elsewhere before about how parents often complicate first time home buyer purchases due to lack of objectivity and transaction lag.

In short, if a person isn’t a principal, they should remain at arms length in their involvement. That’s not always easy, but it does help all parties get through the process more smoothly. I relate to wanting to help, but often the best way to help is not not get involved.

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