When you’ve reached the point where you know your marriage is truly over, it’s natural to wonder when you can or should start dating again. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the companionship, fun, emotional connection, and intimacy that a new partner can bring. It’s also understandable if you’re seeking comfort from feelings of stress, loss, and loneliness at this challenging time.
But it’s essential to be aware that dating before your marriage is legally over could have a significant impact on your divorce process—especially if you’re involved in a custody battle. You’ll want to take steps to smooth the way and avoid certain pitfalls.
California is a no-fault divorce state, meaning you don’t need to prove any wrongdoing or cite a cause such as abandonment, adultery, extreme cruelty, desertion to file for divorce. If at least one partner wants out of the marriage, the divorce is granted. California courts are overburdened, and no-fault divorce not only saves time and relieves congestion for the courts but it also speeds up your divorce process and reduces conflict, which is ultimately better for families and less painful for children.
The judge, therefore, is not concerned about “cheating”—whether you’re dating while technically still married, in and of itself, is of little consequence.
However, if your dating creates tension and hostility with your soon-to-be-ex, it can complicate your divorce, cause delays, and turn a collaborative process into contentious litigation.
Remember that the court’s job is to determine, based on numerous factors, the custody arrangement that is in the child’s best interests. Especially when custody is at stake, your behavior is subject to increased scrutiny, and optics are vital. A new relationship, especially at an early stage in your divorce, can be a source of pain and confusion for your child and create distance between you that can harm your case. Carelessness in your dating life could call into question your stability, judgment, and fitness as a parent.
Therefore, if you’re going to date before your marriage is legally over, do so with utmost care.
Here are eight essential guidelines for dating during your divorce:
Wait. Ideally, you wouldn’t start dating until your divorce is final. But life and love don’t always work that way. Still, it’s wise to wait at least until you’re physically separated, living apart.
Have a frank conversation. Talk openly with your spouse about expectations and the parameters of seeing other people. Come to terms you can both accept, such as agreeing to be up-front with dates about your pending divorce.
Be discreet and sensitive. When you start seeing someone, don’t talk about details of your dating life with friends you share with your spouse. Also, don’t post pictures of romantic outings on social media.
Keep the children out of it. Have date night when your kids are with their other parent. Don’t introduce your children to someone you’re dating while your divorce is still pending. Wait until your divorce is final, you’ve been together several months post-divorce, and you’re confident this is the “real thing” before initiating a meeting.
Be careful with marital assets. Don’t spend a lot of money buying lavish gifts for your girlfriend/boyfriend or going on expensive dates and vacations—unless you’ve spoken with your attorney and are sure you’re using “separate assets.” Wasting marital funds on a new romance could impact the division of property.
Avoid common territory. Please don’t take your date to places your ex frequents, where you’re likely to run into them or their friends.
Know who you’re dating. A new partner’s history of substance abuse or criminal record can be used against you in court and adversely affect your custody case.
Seek the advice of a qualified family law attorney. Although attorneys are not relationship counselors or therapists, if you’re considering dating while going through a divorce, it’s prudent to speak with a knowledgeable lawyer to make sure you understand the possible ramifications of your settlement or custody ruling.
The experienced team at SFLG knows the intricacies of California family law and can help you navigate the wide range of thorny issues surrounding divorce and custody. At the Schoenberg Family Law Group, we believe that knowledge is power. We are all deeply committed to helping our clients navigate their family law matters and providing them with a road map of their case. In so doing, we strive to ensure that our clients are aware of all options before deciding upon a course. We zealously advocate on behalf of our clients and, in so doing, take a realistic approach to all cases.