Family Law

Considerations on Dating Before Your Divorce is Final

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney
Reasons not to date during your divorce.

A rebound relationship can be a bad idea for many reasons—including your divorce. Some spouses are often hurt when their marriage ends, and have no interest in pursuing a new relationship. Others start dating right away, as a distraction or to combat feelings of loneliness. And in some cases, an affair triggered the divorce. From a legal perspective, it's best to avoid a new relationship while your in the middle of a divorce.

Dating Can Affect Your Divorce and Property Division

Nearly every state recognizes some form of no-fault divorce. When you file for a no-fault divorce—or divorce based on irretrievable breakdown—your spouse’s adultery won’t matter much. But if you’ve filed for a fault divorce based on adultery, your spouse's live-in boyfriend will certainly help prove your case.

Most states won’t consider fault when dividing property. However, if one spouse spent thousands on jewelry, clothing, or trips for a lover, a judge will likely consider those expenditures when awarding assets in a divorce. The cheating spouse may receive a smaller property award or may have to pay a larger portion of the marital debts because of the affair. Additionally, certain states allow courts to consider marital misconduct when awarding alimony. So if your new relationship destroyed your marriage, you may have to pay additional spousal support—or be prohibited from asking for support—as a result.

A New Relationship Can Impact Child Custody

You may believe that a new relationship will actually benefit your kids, but a judge may not. When courts decide custody issues, they try to adopt a parenting plan the meets the best interests of the children involved. To find out what is in a child's best interests, courts will look at all factors affecting the child's life, including any other adults that will spend a significant amount of time with the child—which would include your new partner.

Some exes try to immediately sling mud when they find out about a new romance. Your responsible new boyfriend or girlfriend can quickly get painted as someone they aren’t. If a judge believes your ex, you could have limitations placed on your custody or visitation time because of any alleged danger the new person poses to your children.

In some states, older children are allowed to express a preference about custody. Any dislike for one parent’s new significant other could sway the kids to choose the other parent. Your new relationship can also make it appear as if your ex can offer a more stable living situation for the kids. Therefore, it’s important to choose a partner wisely. If possible, it's best to hold off on starting a new relationship until you’ve completed your divorce and given your children some time to get settled with this major transition.

Dating and Settlement Negotiations

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes divorcing couples can make is bringing a new boyfriend or girlfriend to a mediation. One exception is if you were the victim of domestic violence, and your new significant other helps you feel safe. However, most of the time, a boyfriend or girlfriend’s presence can quickly turn negotiations sour. Couples that reach their own divorce settlements save money and are usually happier with the outcomes, so it's best to at least try to settle your issues between the two of you. If you and your spouse aren’t able to reach an agreement, you’ll have a go to trial and leave the issues for a judge to decide.

If you just aren’t able to give up on your new romance, there are some ways to soften the blow to your ex. Specifically, be discreet with your new relationship—don’t post pictures all over social media for your ex to see. Also, be careful about inviting your new partner to events or places where you’re likely to run into your former spouse. For example, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary conflict by keeping your new flame away from court hearings.

And finally, don't introduce your new partner to your children without talking to your ex first. Your ex is likely to be unhappy with it and for good reason. Children need time to heal from a divorce before they're thrown into a situation where they also have to welcome another person who's vying for their parent's attention. The focus really needs to be on your children—not a new romance. Introducing your date to your children too soon is sure to raise some concerns to a judge as well. Above all, check with a local divorce attorney if you have questions about what’s appropriate with a new relationship.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • My divorce has already taken 6 months and isn’t near trial. I’ve been secretly seeing someone. Will that be a problem in my case?
  • My new boyfriend is a great guy, but he has a questionable past. He was convicted of domestic violence 10 years ago. I trust him with my children, but will this be a problem if my ex finds out?
  • I am in a new relationship and not willing to give it up. What can I do so I don’t ruin my chances of getting custody of my kids?

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This article was verified by:
Donna Caruso Baccarella | May 06, 2015
4144 N. Armenia Avenue, Suite 220
Tampa,FL
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