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Can I Date Before my Divorce is Final?

While every divorce is unique, dating during a divorce can cause additional complications. Remember, just because you CAN do something does not mean you SHOULD do something. That is important to remember when sparking up a new relationship.

When a marriage ends, it is natural to seek companionship from a new partner. Divorce can be an isolating experience and you may feel lonely throughout the process. When you got married, you may have imagined you would spend the rest of your life with your partner. While that dream may no longer be on the table, you may want to create a new future with a different partner. However, dating before your divorce is finalized can seriously impact your divorce proceedings. Before you decide it is time to take the plunge into the dating pool, consider the following factors before a divorce is finalized.

Legality

Dating before your divorce is finalized can have legal impacts. It is advised that you seek competent legal counsel to guide you in all aspects of your divorce. An attorney can assess how dating before your divorce is finalized may impact your case. A few examples of legal impacts can be found below.

  • Prenuptial Agreement: The first thing to consider is the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement. If you have a pre-nuptial agreement, ask your attorney to review the document in its entirety. There could be an infidelity clause in your pre-nuptial agreement and a new relationship before a divorce is finalized could be considered infidelity and the clause could become legally enforceable. A new partner could bring into question the timing of that relationship as it relates to the timeline of your divorce. A prenuptial agreement may have penalties for infidelity that should be considered before your next relationship.
  • Accusations of an Affair: A new relationship could give your soon to be ex-spouse grounds to accuse you of having an affair during your relationship. Depending on the laws of your state, this could open a can of worms for additional headaches as you navigate your case. In situations where an accusation is launched, proceedings can quickly get messy and expensive. These sorts of accusations can give the other side ammo to paint you in a negative light. Regardless of the validity of any allegation, it still requires the other side to gather evidence and rebuke the narrative. This process can draw out a divorce, complicate matters, and increase the cost of your divorce.
  • Custody Disputes: A new relationship can muddy the waters while custody is being decided. A new person in the mix could bring up a variety of concerns and issues that could jeopardize the outcome of your custody agreement. This relationship could result in your new partner being brought into the case which is obviously not an ideal situation for any budding romance. Most importantly, it could result in your partner launching additional accusations to limit your access to your children.
  • Wasteful Dissipation: If you plan on spending money on your new partner before your divorce is finalized, an ex-partner could accuse you of wasteful dissipation. Simply put, this is when one partner spends recklessly during a divorce to liquidate funds and leave less assets on the table to be split. This can result in equalization payments due to your ex-spouse.
  • Adultery Laws: There are still adultery laws on the books in some jurisdictions and they vary by state. These laws are rarely enforced and have been gradually struck down as unconstitutional. Nonetheless, your attorney can advise if a relationship could be considered adultery in your jurisdiction and what that means for your specific situation.

 

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does outline some of the ways dating can impact your divorce. To reiterate, your attorney can help you understand the legal landscape of your divorce and is a handy tool in identifying how to navigate intimate relationships during this transition. When speaking with your attorney, it is best to be honest and clear. Any missed detail could leave your attorney blindsided. It is best to ask now, and make an informed decision, than have a mess that you could have prevented.

Your Children

If you have children with your ex, another thing to consider is how a new partner could impact your relationship with your children. Your children likely love both parents and may be disappointed that the relationship has ended. They will have their own opinions about the divorce depending on their age and knowledge of the details of the divorce. With this in mind, it might be best to pause your search for a new partner to ensure you are fully dedicated to taking care of your family.

A parenting coordinator can assist you in navigating the emotional impacts of a new relationship on your children. They can help you determine what is appropriate and inappropriate to share with children and how to communicate with them properly. They can also help you understand the mental health needs of your children to minimize the impact on their lives.

Depending on the dynamics of your divorce, a new relationship could be used to  question your ability to care for your children. Could your ex accuse you of spending too much time on your new relationship or not having the capacity to care properly for your children? Divorces can get messy quickly and this may add fuel to the fire, especially if your ex is not dating. They could have concerns around who your new partner is and if they should be around your children in the first place.

Working with your attorney will help you understand how a new relationship could affect your divorce proceedings. Consult professionals before you make the step towards a life with someone new.

Your New Partner

You could know someone for years and still be surprised by new information you learn about them. When you begin dating, it is likely you will connect with new people that you’ve never met before. How well do you know the person you plan to date? If the answer is “not very well”, you should tread lightly. Does this person have any skeletons in their closet? Do they have a criminal record? Do they have addiction issues? These are all valid questions to consider before a first date. If your ex becomes aware of a new relationship, it is possible that your new partner could be subpoenaed as part of your divorce proceedings. This is obviously not the best way to start off any relationship and can further damage the case your attorney is building. This could bring to light many details that you would rather keep private. A divorce is already complicated enough and a new partner in the mix could set you up for additional challenges.  

Your Ex

Novelist and screenwriter Richard Dooling said it best when he said, “Criminal court is where bad people are on their best behavior. It’s much more dangerous for lawyers and judges in family court, where good people are at their worst.” Simply put, divorce can bring out the worst side of even the best people. If you have a jealous ex, dating during the divorce can create additional tension. You may already have a contentious divorce and the addition of a new partner can exacerbate those negative feelings. Think about what you know about your ex-partner and how they would react to finding out you’re dating someone new. If you believe that person might use this information against you, it might be best to stay away from romantic relationships until the divorce is finalized and your custody agreement is settled. While you by no means need to acquiesce to appease for your ex, it is important to consider how you can make the situation as easy as possible in the short term. Once the divorce is finalized, there are less opportunities for your ex to sour your future.

Your Mental State

Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD. That is important to remember when sparking up a new relationship. Take a mental inventory and ask yourself if you are even ready to start dating. With so many unknowns and stressors, adding a new relationship might not be the best course of action. A life coach can be key in helping you navigate your needs. They can give you tools that allow you to manage any negative emotions and mentally prepare for your divorce.

Divorce can trigger negative emotions and feelings. With so many life changes, adding a new relationship can further complicate the situation. You may already be feeling rejected and additional stress from relationships that do not pan out can compound those feelings. Remember that it is okay to be single. There are many people living very fulfilled lives full of love and happiness without a partner. Do not fall into the replacement grief trap where you seek to cover up grieving by replacing the thing you lost with something new. Divorce can cause people to act irrationally and that is not a sound foundation on which you want to build your future.

Your Choice

While every divorce is unique, dating during a divorce can cause additional complications. Each person’s divorce is unique and that is why building your team of advisors is so important. Your attorney, family therapist, and personal therapist can all assist you in understanding more about relationships and how to navigate the road ahead. Before you seek companionship prior to your divorce being finalized, consider all parties and how they may be impacted by your new found relationship. There is no rush, you have a new beginning waiting on the horizon.

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