Sometimes spouses are so hurt and bitter when a marriage ends, the last thing they want to do is jump into a new relationship. Other times - especially if the marriage has been bad for a long time - spouses are ready to move on with their lives and meet someone new even before the divorce is final. However, this can affect the proceedings, probably not for the better.
Consider Your Children
If you have children, and if custody is something you and your spouse are fighting over, your spouse will probably make sure the court knows you're dating. You can argue that this doesn't make you a bad parent, but it does demonstrate to the court that you're thinking about yourself and your own interests at a time when your focus should be on helping your children through the trauma of the divorce. It could have an effect on a judge's custody decision, and your children might not be happy about the situation either. If you're diverting a portion of your time to your new friend at a time when they particularly need you, your children may resent that.
Dating Can Affect Divorce Grounds
Until your divorce is final, you're still legally married, even if you and your spouse have been separated for a while. Therefore, if you enter into an intimate relationship with someone other than your spouse, it's adultery. In no-fault divorce states, marital misconduct doesn't usually affect property division or alimony claims. If you don't live in one of these states, however, your spouse might amend his divorce petition to include grounds of adultery. In some states, adultery is a bar to receiving alimony and can affect property distribution.
Dating Can Affect Settlement Negotiations
If your spouse isn't ready to move on from the marriage emotionally, he might not respond favorably to the news that you're seeing someone new. If the two of you have been trying to negotiate a divorce settlement, his anger and resentment can make the give-and-take of negotiation almost impossible. If you can't negotiate a divorce settlement, you'll have to go to trial to have a judge decide issues for you. Divorce trials can be extremely stressful and expensive.
If you've met someone and you want to pursue a relationship even before your divorce is final, you can at least reduce the risks if you take some sensible precautions. Don't introduce your new friend to your children until custody is resolved and until you think they're ready for it. Avoid going places together where you're likely to run into your spouse, or your spouse's friends. Above all, clear it with your lawyer first, in case there are potential complications particular to your state's laws that you haven't foreseen.
A Divorce Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding dating and divorce is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a divorce lawyer.