When a marriage ends, it’s normal to want to socialize and possibly start over with a new relationship. But openly dating before your divorce is final can potentially lengthen the process and may impact your settlement.
That doesn’t mean you can’t date at all, though. Instead, you should work with a trusted family law attorney to make sure that you fully understand the implications of dating during a divorce.
Can you date while going through the divorce process?
Yes! It’s not “illegal” to date while you’re working through your divorce, particularly if you and your spouse have had a conversation and you both are aware that the marriage is over. are pursuing a no-fault divorce. Under a no-fault divorce, neither spouse is required to prove wrongdoing on the part of the other, instead citing “irreconcilable differences” or “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” as the grounds for divorce. Even when parties are pursuing “fault” grounds (such as desertion, addiction, incarceration, deviant sexual conduct, and mental illness), depending on the specific facts of your case, dating during the divorce process may be reasonable, but it’s important to weigh all of the factors before making a choice.
However, the matter may become more complicated if you or your spouse is filing for a divorce based on adultery. Since this is considered a fault ground, one spouse must present evidence for dissolving the marriage including suspected paramours, dates and places of the alleged adultery.
If allegations of adultery play a role in your divorce, dating activity may impact your legal case. As such, it’s important to work closely with your divorce attorney to understand the implications of dating and how it may impact your divorce strategy and long-term goals.
Consequences of dating during the divorce process
No matter the basis for your divorce, it’s wise to proceed with caution when dating during the process. Having support during this time is crucial to your well-being, but dating can throw a wrench in your divorce case, especially if you and your soon-to-be-ex don’t have an amicable relationship.
For example, spending large amounts of money with a new partner may impact the distribution of assets, particularly if you use funds from a marital account or if you are using money that would otherwise be used to support joint expenses or your children. If you introduce a new partner to your children prematurely or in a manner that is not in their best interest, that may impact your parenting time positions. In extreme cases, if your new significant other is found to have a history of criminal activity or substance abuse, it could potentially lead to a situation where your parenting time is restricted.
To better understand possible outcomes, it’s crucial to have open communication with your divorce attorney. They can help you understand potential consequences so you can make the right decision for your future.
Do’s and don’ts of dating during divorce
If you do decide to pursue a relationship before your divorce decree has been issued, there are a few things you can do to minimize the impact it has on your case.
DO be honest and open with everyone involved
When we say be honest with everyone, we mean everyone. This doesn’t mean you need to send out save-the-dates or make a big show of changing your Facebook relationship status, but your lawyer (and, depending on your relationship with them, even your ex-partner) should know if you’ve decided to date again.
Additionally, your new love interest needs to understand that your children (if you have them) and the resolution of your divorce is a top priority. Talk to your family law attorney if you want to publicly announce a new relationship before a settlement has been reached, as they can help you avoid mistakes that could derail your case.
There are a few dating-related elements that could potentially slow down or create some speed bumps in your divorce case. For example:
- Sharing protected information from your lawyer (or your ex’s) with your new partner
- Gifting your new partner something that could be considered marital property
- Introducing your new partner to your children could impact parenting time negotiations
It could even result in your new partner being deposed as part of your case.
Keeping your lawyer in the loop can ensure your decisions help you in the short- and long-term. While you needn’t feel obligated to share all the details, you shouldn’t give the appearance that you’re attempting to hide information from the court, as this can have negative implications for your case.
DO accept support from others
Divorce can be difficult, even if you believe the end result may provide some needed change. Re-entering the dating world can also be difficult. It’s okay to need help managing the transition.
It can also be tempting to seek out a new relationship after your marriage ends (which may not be the same as when your divorce is finalized), but don’t feel pressured to jump back into a romantic one. Family, friends, therapists, co-workers, or support groups can provide critical encouragement about when and how to make your next steps.
Of course, it’s also helpful to have an experienced family law attorney on your side as you navigate the world of divorce—and dating during a divorce.
DON’T use a new relationship as a bandaid for your divorce
During the emotional turbulence of divorce, a new romantic relationship can often feel like a way to stabilize your life and create a new normal. And companionship and support during this time is an important part of healing.
That being said, couples should tread lightly with new love interests, especially when it comes to basing long-term decisions around them. Avoid factoring your new relationship into your divorce negotiations, such as your parenting time plan or questions surrounding equitable distribution.
Additionally, be cautious about relationships with a new partner’s children (if they have them). A “ready-made family” might feel tempting as you navigate your divorce, but don’t overlook the needs of your own children during this transition.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by how to balance these changes, talk to your divorce attorney about what resources you and your family might benefit from. An experienced attorney can help you evaluate your holistic needs and find the right support.
DON’T post anything on social media that can be used against you
Your ex can’t use posts from social media or dating sites against you if there is nothing incriminating out there.
But if you actively post about your new partner, you may be providing them with ammunition for their case. For example, if you tell your partner that you had to work and couldn’t accommodate a parenting time switch, but then posted on social media about going out with your new significant other, this could draw into question your honesty and reliability. In turn, this information could be used if your ex-spouse wanted to argue for a new child custody or parenting time arrangement.
In short: until your divorce is finalized, you need to keep your socials free of information about your romantic life.
If you need help navigating the divorce process in New Jersey, our attorneys can help
For assistance with a divorce in New Jersey, call on the experienced attorneys at Jacobs Berger. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.