Divorce is a tumultuous time in anyone’s life. It’s a period when loneliness and stress often creep in, and the desire to meet someone new and feel desirable again becomes overwhelming. The question of whether it’s acceptable to go out on a date during the divorce process is a common one, and the answer is not as straightforward as it may seem. While the simple response is to wait until the divorce is final, life rarely adheres to such simplicity.
The Costs and Complications of Dating During Divorce
When it comes to dating during a divorce, it’s crucial to understand what exactly “dating” entails. Legally, dating refers to one-on-one social contact with another person, including both platonic and romantic or sexual interactions. However, from a practical standpoint, it’s the romantic or sexual relationships that draw scrutiny and may complicate the divorce process.
Dating while the divorce is pending, even if you are technically separated, can increase the cost and stress of the divorce trial. While judges rarely punish someone for dating once they have physically and permanently separated from their spouse, it can still add unnecessary aggravation and potentially lead to a more complicated and expensive divorce.
New Relationships and Affairs
Introducing a new partner during a divorce, especially in front of your soon-to-be ex-spouse or children, can ignite anger and suspicion, with the ex-partner believing the relationship began as an “affair” before the separation. This can lead to increased tension and conflict, additional delays in the divorce proceedings, and higher attorney’s fees if you have legal representation.
Depending on the state’s laws and the specifics of your case, the other party’s attorney may even depose your new partner, subjecting them to questioning under oath. This uncomfortable situation aims to determine the exact timing and nature of the relationship, whether any marital property was transferred, and any financial implications it may have had. The deposition can ultimately be used to further the opposing party’s case.
The Don’ts of Dating During a Divorce
There are several important guidelines to follow if you choose to date before your divorce is finalized:
- Don’t date until you’ve physically separated from your spouse. Even if you both agree that the marriage is over, introducing a new relationship could lead the court to attribute the failure of the marriage to this new connection, potentially impacting the division of marital assets.
- Maintain impeccable conduct around your children. Avoid doing anything in front of them that you wouldn’t be comfortable discussing in court. Introducing them to a new romantic partner can upset your spouse, cause additional emotional pain for your children, and potentially compromise your future custody rights. It’s generally best to wait until after the divorce is finalized and you have been dating for at least six months before introducing your children to a new partner.
- Avoid pregnancy or impregnating someone before the divorce is final. A pregnancy can prolong your case until paternity is determined and custody and support arrangements are made.
The Do’s of Dating During a Divorce
While there are numerous don’ts when it comes to dating during a divorce, there are also some do’s to consider:
- Socialize in groups. Participate in events individually, without pairing off with a specific person.
- Network and attend social events. If you meet someone who piques your interest, be open and honest about your situation. Exchange contact information but avoid engaging in one-on-one contact until you are at least separated.
- Seek support from a divorce support group. Dealing with the emotions of loss and isolation during a divorce can be challenging, and joining a support group can provide valuable guidance and companionship.
Can the Court Prohibit Dating?
While judges can issue temporary orders during the divorce process, it’s unlikely that dating will be outright banned. However, if a dating spouse uses marital funds for dating purposes, introduces an unsavory individual to the children, or causes financial disruptions to the family during the divorce, the court may impose penalties. These penalties can include fines, attorney’s fees, and even jail time for contempt of court.
Additionally, if you date during the divorce and your spouse accuses you of adultery, the court may consider this relationship when determining alimony and property division.
Dating After the Divorce
Once the court finalizes your divorce, both individuals are free to date and remarry. However, it’s essential to be aware of any provisions in your divorce decree that may restrict introducing new partners to your children or engaging in certain behaviors for a specified period. To avoid leaving these decisions solely in the hands of a judge, you and your spouse can work together to create a marital settlement agreement that addresses future relationships and introductions to your children. This agreement can include provisions such as waiting periods before introducing children to new partners, allowing the other parent to meet the new partner first, and other measures that prioritize your child’s best interests.
If you have further questions about the implications of dating while going through a divorce, it’s advisable to consult with a family law attorney to ensure you understand the legal nuances and protect your rights.