Dating While Divorcing: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Can I date during my divorce is the question that I hear every week from at least one client. The answer that I give is from a legal not a social point of view. Because the real question the client is asking is will dating either affect my custody case or cost me money from my spouse. From a social perspective the answer is easy do whatever makes you happy. But since I am a divorce attorney, my advice is always different.

The first answer that I give is that you "legally" can date, however my recommendation is that you be discrete, at least initially, so as not to throw fuel on the flame. If your spouse is still in love with you or jealous, dating openly will cause more anger and hurt. The result a more difficult divorce. I tell clients to avoid places that you know your spouse or their friends frequent. The hurt spouse loves to throw in the other spouse's face that they are an "adulterer" or "cheater" even if the dating did not begin until after the divorce starts. So decide whether your spouse is the type that will not care, may be already dating or will try and make you "pay" for seeing another person.

If there are no children involved in your divorce, the other consideration is will dating so anger the other spouse that they try to use it as a reason to pay less or demand more financial support if there is a significant gap between your income and your spouse's. The common responses I hear are either, "you have enough money to pay for your girlfriend but not enough to support me" or "let your boyfriend/girlfriend support you, they have plenty of money".

When there are younger children or even teenaged children involved, the possible affect of dating can be more serious. Again the simple legal advice is to keep significant others away from the children, especially if there will be a custody fight. The boyfriend/girlfriend should not be sleeping over when the children are with you. The court will look at exposing the children in that manner as using poor judgment. So then the question is can we go to the beach togehter or a barbecue or to a concert. I am always told, "but my children like my friend". Kids are complicated and they may not always tell you how they feel. They don't want to hurt either parent. They are afraid to tell on either parent. Some children will be made to believe that the one that is dating is the cause of the divorce, even if it is not true. Children sometimes want to protect the "single" parent. So anytime there is a potentailly contested custody case, dating adds another complcated layer to the case. If there is a law guardian or a forensic psychologist involved they will certainly want to find out whether the children are comfortable with the new friend.

Contested divorce cases are complicated and adding yet another emotional component rarely makes resolution simpler. So while I never tell a client not to date, I do advise that they use good judgment while they are still under the divorce microscope. If you need a highly experienced custody lawyer who can see the big picture and give you practical advice, please call my office to schedule your free consultation.