Dating During Divorce

DATING DURING DIVORCE

            One of the most frequent questions I hear during my initial meeting with a client is: When can I starting dating?  To a client who has been suffering in a marriage with limited or no sexual relationship, it is not unusual for the client to believe that when they have made the decision to end their marriage and told an attorney that the marriage is “over,” they should be free to “move on” with their life, i.e. start looking for a new partner. My advice is “not so fast.” 

            It is common for couples to spend a lot of time and money planning a wedding.  Applying for a marriage license and participating in some type of ceremony also takes time.  Unless you and your spouse have agreed on every single issue involved in the dissolution of your marriage, you are not going to be quickly divorced.  It will take a certain amount of time to  reach an agreement with or without attorneys or with mediators and/or arbitrators.  If you are unable to resolve any disagreements be prepared for a lengthy process. Dating during the divorce can vastly complicate the process and impact the time for ending the marriage. 

Q: After I move out of the marital bedroom, am I free to date other people?

            It is important to understand that you are married under the law until you have an official document stating that you and your spouse are no longer husband and wife.  In most states that document is known as a “Final Judgement of Divorce.”  In many states sexual relations with any person other than your spouse is adultery and a crime.  Fortunately, district attorneys have more significant criminal cases to prosecute so there is rarely a prosecution, but it is still a crime.

Q: If I start a new relationship while my divorce is pending, can that affect the settlement?

       Absolutely.  It is possible that your new relationship can affect the outcome of custody or visitation, as well as the amount that you pay or receive as child support and/or alimony.  It can also dramatically affect your ability to negotiate a property settlement with your spouse.

Q:  My spouse is very angry that I want a divorce.  My lawyer told me that my spouse can’t prevent me from getting a divorce.  So, what difference does it make if my spouse is angry that I am in a new relationship?

         Your lawyer is correct to the extent that your spouse cannot stop the divorce.  However, an angry spouse can enormously complicate the divorce, and lengthen the time it takes for the divorce to be finalized.  As a result it is very likely that your lawyer will have to devote more billable time to your divorce, which will result in your paying  larger legal fees.  It is to your advantage to maintain a “cordial” relationship with your “soon to be” ex-spouse.  This translates into taking “the high road” when responding to emails, and when you are forced to interact with your  spouse.  To the extent that you can “suggest” to your family members to refrain from negative comments about your spouse, do it.  There is nothing to be gained by provoking anger in your spouse.

Q:  I am in a new relationship, and my divorce is “close” to being final.  Can I introduce my children to my new love?

      There is no such animal as “almost divorced.”  You are married until you have a signed divorce decree in your hand. In some states, it is a crime to have sexual relations with anyone other than your spouse.  It is impossible for me to imagine a situation where it would benefit your children to meet your new love while you are still legally married.  Your children’s parent is still your spouse.  The younger your children are the more likely that they will be confused about your new relationship.  If your children are older, it is possible that they will be angry at you for having a new relationship.  If your case is not resolved amicably, the court may be deciding custody, child support, spousal support, division of assets and debts. The judge may have concerns about your judgement.  Keep in mind that judges in family law matters have an enormous amount of discretion and can penalize your actions.

Q:  My spouse filed for divorce and I am very depressed.  My friends tell me that I need to start dating and having sex.

       Going through a divorce is one of the most stressful experiences in one’s life time.  It is stressful whether you are the party that filed for the divorce or if you are on the receiving side.  It is normal to be sad.  Although your friends are trying to help you “move on,” dating has its own set of stressors.  There are many qualified professionals who can assist  you to develop coping strategies so you can get to a better place.  I recommend that my  clients   make  an appointment with a therapist experienced in working with individuals going through divorce.  If you meet with a  therapist, and you do not feel “connected,” ask for some additional recommendations.  Your attorney should have therapists they have identified as being particularly helpful working with individuals going through divorce. I have witnessed many clients go from “caterpillars to butterflies” during the divorce process.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

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