Does the Court Take Into Consideration My Current Relationship When Determining Custody?

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For many divorcing couples in California, a marriage might feel over long before the formal dissolution begins. If you fall into this category, you might feel tempted go back out into the dating scene while your divorce is still pending. However, this might do more harm than good. Engaging in a new relationship before your divorce becomes final can carry some serious downsides and can lead to negative consequences. The courts consider several factors when making decisions in your divorce proceeding. Learn how a new relationship might affect your dissolution of marriage, especially regarding custody of your children.

Legalities of California Divorce

Under state law, California follows a no-fault rule when it comes to divorce. Under this rule, couples do not need any formal grounds for divorce other than irreconcilable differences. It also means that the court doesn’t have to consider who is at-fault for a divorce regarding the division of property and assets.

The courts can, however, consider several factors, like a current or pre-existing relationship, regarding matters of alimony, support, and even child custody. Re-entering the dating scene could prove to be detrimental to your case, both from an emotional and practical standpoint.

Potential Downsides of Dating During Divorce

A new or pre-existing relationship during a divorce could prove to be damaging on several levels. Some of the most compelling downsides include:

  • A detrimental effect on your relationship with your children. A new relationship could prove to alienate your children and breed resentment. It’s common for children to feel abandoned and align sympathies with your spouse. This could prove especially problematic for older children, as the courts may consider their preferences when making decisions regarding custody and support.
  • Issues with your ex-spouse. If you begin a new relationship during your divorce, your spouse is less likely to be amenable to parenting solutions and child custody arrangements. This can lead to more drawn-out battles over important issues regarding parenting plans, visitation, and more.
  • Negative assessments of your moral character. Plainly speaking, judges and child advocacy experts who weigh in on parenting decisions do not look kindly on people who begin dating during an active divorce proceeding. In their eyes, you may be callous and express a disregard for your child’s emotional state during this trying time. Dating someone new could tip the scales in the other parent’s favor and lead to a less desirable child custody arrangement.
  • Potential effect on payment of spousal support. While a new relationship will likely not affect any child support, it may affect the court’s decision to mandate payment of spousal support, under the same reasoning listed above. For example, if you’re a spouse likely to pay support, the courts might up your spousal support payments, because they see that you have the financial means to share expenses with a new love interest.

The Bottom Line

Dating or taking a big step in a pre-existing relationship can and often does affect a divorce proceeding. Though California does not strictly address fault in a divorce proceeding, it will consider child preferences, parental conduct, and more when making determinations regarding alimony and child custody and visitation, If you’re in a new relationship during an active divorce proceeding, you run the risk of alienating your children and angering your ex-spouse, which could make a positive outcome in your custody arrangement more difficult.

If you’re considering a new relationship during a divorce proceeding, we recommend waiting until a final dissolution of marriage and the issue of a divorce decree before taking the plunge, if possible. If you were in a pre-existing relationship prior to your divorce, do not take any big relationship steps until your proceeding is over.

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