Q&A: I am worried about my dad’s new partner. What can I do?
Q: My dad’s new partner is separating him from our family. How can I stop her?
My 70-year-old father is widowed and met a new woman while on a cruise in 2017. Following a whirlwind romance, my dad sold our family home and bought a new one closer to where this woman lived over 100 miles away.
Not only is he now further away from us physically, I am worried dad’s new partner is trying to drive a wedge between us mentally too. Once I was on the phone to my dad and in the background, I heard her say he didn’t love me, to which he replied “of course I do, she is my daughter”.
My uncle says my dad is the happiest he’d seen him in a long time, but my aunt said she found the lady to be cold and unfriendly.
Dad doesn't understand why we cannot all get on but I am very worried. Dad had a well-paid job and a generous pension, which could leave him vulnerable to exploitation. Also, his health is deteriorating and is showing early signs of dementia.
How can I intervene? Is there anything in law that can stop this woman from causing my family such heartache?
A: I’m so sorry to hear about your situation, but as always, my advice here is tread carefully.
It is difficult when a loved one has a new partner, and the family dynamics change. You have to try and be positive about your father’s future happiness and gauge for yourself if he seems happy. It is a concern that your father’s partner was in the background during your phone conversation, and you overheard her say that your father does not love you, although he did tell you he does love you.
In the first instance it is probably best to try and get on with your father’s partner and to spend some time with them, also try to find a way to be with your father on his own. Remember that there is an assumption of capacity unless proven otherwise. Just because you feel your father’s relationship is not good for him, is not your decision, however unwise this may seem.
If you are really concerned that your father’s partner is exerting coercive control, and or at risk physically or financially this is a safeguarding issue that should be reported to social services who will investigate this. You must be aware that by taking this step this could have a negative impact on your relationship with your father if there are no issues of concern, even if it is meant with good intentions.
Also, if you were to apply to the courts for some kind of order, they would only look at what is in your father’s best interests if he lacks capacity to make the decision in question - we wrote a similar topic previously, which you can read here.
If your suspicions are unfounded, how would your dad feel at being separated from his partner?
Whether or not your father wants his partner to be part of your lives, it is essential that you try to encourage him to make sure you have all the right paperwork in the background.
You mentioned you were worried that dad was starting to become unwell with dementia, so the earlier he can get the correct paperwork in place, the better. If you don’t already, the very least you will need is Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) - a document that would allow you act lawfully on his behalf in the event your father cannot do so himself. You will also need to make sure his will is up to date and correct.
It is so important you have frank conversations with dad so that you can do the right thing and stand by his wishes. Without the correct paperwork, his new partner will not have any rights in law to any assets - particularly as it seems they are not married. All of these issues can be very difficult and cause considerable legal issues, particularly where there is a potential conflict of interests. This is why it is so important to get legal advice at an early stage. You can deal with many matters yourself however none of us know what we don’t know.
If anyone else is facing a similar situation and would like to find out more about Lasting Powers of Attorney, contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.