"Is it okay if I go out on a date?" is a question that comes up quite often for soon-to-be divorcees. The simple answer should always be: "Not until your divorce is final." But, life is rarely this simple.
Divorcing clients are often lonely and stressed out, and they may be longing to meet someone new, feel desirable again, and just have fun, so many clients decide that only one date can't hurt.
If you find that you just can't wait until your divorce is final to start dating again, this article provides a few "do's and don'ts" of seeing someone new before you're divorced.
Unfortunately, when it comes to dating during a divorce, there is more that you shouldn't do than should, but first, let's clarify what's meant by "dating." Legally, "dating" means one-on-one social contact with another person. There is no distinction between platonic contacts and ones that are romantic or sexual. However, from a practical standpoint, romantic or sexual relationships are the ones that draw scrutiny and may cause complications in your divorce case.
The reason divorce lawyers counsel against dating while the divorce is pending (even if you're technically separated), is that it can increase both the cost and the stress of the divorce trial. You're not supposed to date someone else while you're still married. However, judges rarely punish someone who begins dating—sexually or otherwise—once they've physically and permanently separated from their spouse.
Even if everything is on the up-and-up, the result is that dating can add a lot of unnecessary aggravation, stress, and possibly even a more complicated and expensive divorce.
A new partner's presence during a divorce, particularly when paraded in front of the spouse or children, can enrage the soon-to-be ex and raise suspicion that the relationship began as an "affair" before the separation. In return, your spouse may try to wage a legal war of sorts, in a misguided effort to exact some sort of revenge on you and your new partner. Whether justified or not, bringing a new partner around can certainly increase tension and conflict, delay the divorce proceedings, and increase your attorney's fees, if you have lawyers handling your case.
Depending on your state's laws and the specific issues in your case, the other side's lawyer may be able to depose your new partner (that is, ask questions under oath and have a stenographer and/or videographer record all the answers.) Your spouse's attorney may even subpoena your new partner to testify at your trial. This will be highly uncomfortable for everyone involved.
The purpose of a deposition is to determine:
Even if everything is on the up-and-up, the result is that dating while your case is still pending can add a lot of unnecessary aggravation, stress, and possibly even a more complicated and expensive divorce. But, for those unwilling to wait, here are a few guidelines for dating while divorcing:
Most states permit judges to enter temporary orders while the divorce is pending. Temporary orders usually address custody, child support, alimony, restraining orders for both spouses to prevent wasting marital funds, and anything else the court considers essential. Both spouses must follow temporary orders or risk the court finding them in contempt, meaning they violated a court order. Contempt of court charges can carry fines, attorney's fees, and even time in jail.
It's unlikely that a judge would order an outright ban on dating during the divorce, but this doesn't mean that a court won't punish a dating spouse if that spouse uses marital funds to date, introduces an unsavory individual to the children, or otherwise affects the family and/or marital finances during the divorce.
Additionally, if you date during the divorce and your spouse accuses you of committing adultery, the court may consider your relationship when deciding alimony and/or property division, depending on the laws in your state.
After the court finalizes your divorce, both spouses are free to date and remarry. However, if you have children with your ex-spouse, your divorce decree may include provisions that prevent you from introducing new partners to your children for a period of time or that may include restrictions on dating around your children.
If you'd rather not leave your future dating life up to a judge, you can work with your spouse to create a marital settlement agreement that addresses future relationships and introductions to your children in a way you and your spouse are comfortable with. If both spouses agree, you can include any of the following provisions in your agreement before presenting it to the judge:
If you're going through a divorce and have additional questions on the ramifications of dating someone new, contact a family law attorney near you.