If you’re dealing with a messy separation, and it’s taking a while, it might be tempting to start dating before the divorce is actually finalized. But can you date while separated?
As a general rule, dating during separation should pose no issues if the couple has already filed for legal separation. However, dating before being legally divorced in states without legal separation could be brought up during divorce proceedings as evidence of wrongdoing.
But adultery is not seen in quite the same negative light now that it was a year ago.
But if your divorce is nasty, or has the potential to be, and/or your soon-to-be-ex feels like the victim, if you don’t have legal separation in your state, it would be best to wait to date until after the divorce is finalized.
The rest of this article will discuss a few topics related to this subject in great detail, including the intricacies of dating while divorcing, what constitutes cheating, custody, and potential legal issues.
So read on to learn more about dating while separated from your partner.
Dating While Separated
It’s common for separated partners to seek companionship in new people, but you should consider some potential complications if you decide to date during your divorce proceedings.
Seeking comfort in the arms of someone else is a common experience and desire among separated partners. However, if you ask your attorney whether or not you can date while you’re separated and working on the intricacies of a divorce, they’ll usually answer, “not until your divorce is final.”
But, again, life isn’t always this clear-cut.
Divorces are usually stressful and challenging and can leave people feeling lonely and undesirable. On the other hand, finding someone else who wants to take you out on a date can be incredibly enticing and welcoming amid a turbulent or amicable separation.
You’re not alone if you’re separated from your partner and considering someone new.
Unfortunately, most divorce attorneys advise their clients not to pursue romantic interests during separation and subsequent divorce because it can increase the cost and overall stress of a divorce trial. So, technically, you shouldn’t date anyone else while still married to another.
Dating can be an overgeneralized term used for platonic and romantic relationships, but generally, only sexual and romantic relationships are frowned upon.
Relationships, breakups, and divorces are highly emotional affairs, and adding another person to the mix usually makes things more complicated and more painful for everyone.
For example, bringing a new partner around your children or soon-to-be ex-spouse can be particularly enraging for your former partner and raise suspicion about when the new relationship began.
If it’s only been a short amount of time since you left your soon-to-be-ex and you started dating, this can make them think that you were having an affair before the marriage ended.
The Don’ts of Dating During Divorce
I highly encourage you to stop dating until your divorce is finalized, which will save you a lot of headaches during the court proceedings and make the actual divorce go a lot more smoothly.
If you cannot wait, here are some tips on things you should avoid.
- Don’t date at all until you have physically separated from your spouse, and if you’re still living with your legal partner, do not date anyone else, even if you and your partner agree that your marriage is over.
- Don’t do anything with your new partner that would make you uncomfortable to describe in a courtroom.
- Don’t introduce your children to your new partner.
- Don’t impregnate someone new, or become pregnant yourself, before your divorce is final.
Is Dating During Divorce Cheating?
Emotional, romantic, and sexual entanglements are challenging to navigate under normal circumstances, but adding divorce can complicate relationships. If you’re considering dating while you’re separated from your spouse, you may wonder if it’s still considered cheating.
Dating during a divorce can be thought of as cheating. Technically adultery is defined as a sexual experience with a married person, so even though you may be physically separated from your spouse, you are still considered married.
Consequently, extramarital relationships could be regarded as cheating.
It’s a good idea to avoid romantic pursuits until your final divorce. This will ensure you avoid unnecessary stress and legal complications.
In fact, in some states, seeing someone while you’re still married can be considered a crime.
In addition, some states criminalize adultery. While the enforcement of these laws is usually pretty lax, you don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize your final divorce settlement.
Before you even consider dating someone new, consult with your legal representation on the matter and find out the ins and outs of the law in your state and your unique circumstances. Even if you find someone during the divorce process, you might want to keep it quiet until it’s finalized.
The Do’s of Dating During a Divorce
If you feel like you’ve found an amazing new partner, it can be challenging to resist the urge to begin dating them immediately, even if your divorce isn’t final, as there might be some legal complications you’ll want to consider before making your final decision.
Here are some tips I would encourage you to employ if you decide to date during a separation from your spouse:
- Always hang out or date in groups, and don’t drift off alone with that one person until the divorce is final.
- Attending events individually and socializing with a network is okay while separated.
- Communicate openly, frequently, and honestly, and don’t lie about your marital status to a new partner or prospective partner.
- Find a divorce support group or try therapy to help you with the feelings you’re experiencing during this challenging time.
- Ensure that you don’t feel a romantic connection to your legal partner before you begin dating again.
- Be sure to live separately.
- Be sure that you’re past the grieving stage of your separation.
Physical and emotional distance from your legal spouse will ensure that you have a healthy new relationship with someone new. But, again, it’s essential to wait until the divorce is finished before you even consider moving on to someone new.
But, if you cannot wait, make sure you take some precautions, including distance.
Physical distance is an absolute necessity before you start dating someone else, but so is emotional distance.
Dating During Divorce and Custody
While most states don’t have specific laws prohibiting dating during a divorce, it can make your spouse more hostile to negotiate with because it opens fresh wounds and creates an emotional battle even more challenging.
In addition, dating can become even more complicated if you are also fighting a custody battle during your divorce.
If you have kids with your spouse, that’s another reason to avoid dating altogether while you’re in a divorce.
Not only can your kids get even more hurt and traumatized by the separation and prospect of another parent, but it can also make your spouse more challenging to negotiate with and turn a cooperative relationship into a contentious one.
You also need to consider your children’s health, well-being, and safety. You’ll want to ask yourself if dating is really in their best interest. If you want to date someone while in a divorce, are you doing it for selfish reasons, such as for comfort and to ease your loneliness?
You should hold off until your divorce is finalized, especially if kids are involved.
Even if it is legal for you to date, it probably won’t be a good decision for your children. Imagine being in their shoes.
Their entire world is unlimited upside down, and if you bring home your new sweetheart and introduce them to your kids, imagine how much turmoil this could cause your family.
Not only could your kids be upset, but imagine how your spouse would react if they found out that you were dating and bringing that new person home to meet your kids.
It could derail all of your negotiations in the divorce and custody proceedings.
Your spouse could use your new dating prospects as ammunition against you in your divorce and custody hearings. While most courts won’t penalize you for dating someone else, it can complicate the entire process and make some judges sympathetic to the other side.
Just because you can date doesn’t mean that you should. Remember to prioritize your children over your own romantic and sexual interests. It’s not your kids’ fault that you’re separating, and it’s not fair to them to subject them to more turmoil by dating.
Custody issues are complicated under the best of circumstances, so custody issues become even murkier if you’re dating someone else during your marital separation.
Introducing a new romantic partner to your children is a sensitive issue, and it could cause your spouse to lose any intention of proceeding with peaceful negotiations. This means that your legal fees will likely increase, and the time it takes to finalize the divorce could be extended.
Potential Legal Consequences
Unfortunately, there is more that you shouldn’t do when it comes to dating during a divorce than things that you can or should do. However, there are some things that you should consider, legally, before you decide to light a spark with someone new.
Sometimes legal separation doesn’t always result in divorce.
If you think there’s a possibility of salvaging your marriage, you definitely shouldn’t date someone new. Even if you and your spouse agree that the marriage is over, you should be cautious before pursuing new relationships.
In the absence of a formal separation agreement, you could be risking some legal consequences. In some states, your spouse may be able to sue whoever you’re dating or blame you for adultery, which is criminal in some states, and use it as a base for the divorce.
Also, dating while legally married can influence a judge’s custody decisions. As a parent, your spouse has a right to know who may potentially or be spending time with their children.
While they shouldn’t use your dating life as a basis for custody decisions, sometimes introducing new partners to children can cause turmoil and leave a judge or your spouse no choice but to pursue adverse legal action against you to protect the kids’ wellbeing.
Of course, any time you date before a divorce is finalized, you risk dragging out a divorce. This inevitably means more legal fees, increased representation fees, potential alimony, child support, and more.
Dating After the Divorce
Once the court finalizes your divorce, both you and your ex-spouse are able to date and remarry whenever and however you choose.
The only stipulation is if you have children from your previous marriage.
In that case, there may be some agreements outlined in your divorce decree that may include provisions that prevent you from introducing new romantic interests to children for a while or may restrict your dating when you’re around your children.
Again, this is usually done to protect the children’s best interests.
New romantic interests can be confusing and difficult for children to reconcile. And, just because you’re divorced, it doesn’t always mean that you’re completely free from having any contact with that person forever.
If you would instead not let a judge decide your future dating parameters, you can try to work with your spouse to create a marital settlement agreement that addresses your future relationships to be comfortable.
If you and your ex agree, you can avoid having a judge declare specific provisions.
Of course, this is usually a lot easier to do if you haven’t damaged a relationship with your spouse by dating before the divorce is finalized. However, if you date beforehand, you may risk losing your ability to negotiate and compromise with your spouse without the decrees of a judge.
Some divorce decrees include provisions around dating while children are present, so no dinner dates with the kids. Or some include limiting or ultimately not having overnight guests while the children are in your care or waiting a certain amount of time before introducing new partners to kids.
For specific questions about divorce and custody agreements, you need to contact a family law attorney near you.
Relationships and divorces are challenging for many people.
The most important thing you can do is keep it amicable between you and your spouse. This can be difficult to achieve, but it can be done by setting expectations, keeping lines of communication open, and having realistic expectations.
Try to come to negotiations and compromises with an open mind, and try to be considerate of the person you’re divorcing.
I would also suggest avoiding dating other people until your final divorce to avoid expensive court fees, complicated decrees, and hostile negotiations.
Of course, I have to add that I am not a lawyer, nor do I know the laws in your state or country. I am, however, divorced (twice) and have recent experience going through one. However, my comments and articles should not be taken as legal or professional advice. If you need legal or professional advice you should consult a professional in your area.