Though your divorce may have been a long time coming and you feel ready to start seeing new people (or perhaps you already have someone else lined up), it is generally best to wait until the final decree is signed before beginning a new romance.
Although no-fault divorce states don’t have any hard and fast rules that say you can’t date until a certain point in time, the court may look negatively upon jumping into a new relationship before the dissolution is finalized since you are, after all, technically still married.
This is where knowing your judge becomes extremely important: One judge may believe that a relationship during the proceedings will send the wrong message to any children who are already coping with a highly emotional environment, whereas another judge may not care at all.
However, it is usually best to avoid any potential scrutiny from the court.
It is also imperative to realize that, particularly if children are involved, any new relationship will likely come under close examination.
This can come back to impact custody proceedings, because if the person you decide to date has a past history of poor choices or morals, your spouse can make the argument that it is not a proper environment for your children.
Courts can also place an order to prevent contact with a new person; however, this is less likely to be granted if both parties have been separated for a while and the children have already been exposed to either side seeing other people.
Additionally, having a new significant other before the divorce is final can also play into other areas of the divorce, such as assets and debts.
If there is documented spending that can be traced to the new paramour, such as a vacation which used funds from a joint account, do not expect your spouse to pay for an equal share of the credit card debt or to receive a 50/50 split of the funds.
However, if you do decide it’s worth the risk to jump into a new relationship, there are a couple things to keep in mind:
Disclose the relationship to your attorney
This goes without saying, but you need to feel like you can trust your representation with everything.
Even if you feel like the relationship will remain hidden, your lawyer would rather have all pertinent information up front (including the potentially bad stuff) instead of being blindsided when the revelation comes up later.
Do not attempt to lie about it
With how easy it is to stalk social media, the fact that friends and people will talk, the financial and phone records available to discovery and the limited date locations you can go without leaving a trace, the chances are a relationship will not remain secret.
It is better to be honest than to lose credibility with the judge since trust is particularly difficult to regain in the eyes of the court.
Know the new girlfriend’s background
It is important to realize that the courts will factor the character of the person you decide to date into determining your ability to make proper judgments.
If you are dating a convicted felon or someone with past drug abuse problems, it will not reflect well on you no matter if those issues are all in the past.
Don’t rub the new date in your spouse’s face
The temptation may exist, but avoiding any additional hostility and resentment is important.
You and your spouse still have plenty of important issues to work out, and it is best to do so as amicably as possible to avoid excessive spending on litigation fees. The faster you can get through problem areas, the faster you can move on, and a new girlfriend can bring up plenty of jealousy in your soon-to-be ex.
While everyone will be different in how long they take to recover from divorce, it is generally a good rule of thumb to at the very least wait until the ink is dry on your decree before you start seeing someone new.
Rebound relationships tend to be unhealthy, and with the additional problems they can cause in the courtroom, you really should play it safe and wait to date.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”