The Overwhelming Downside to Dating During Divorce

Dating while a divorce is pending should be avoided. The benefits rarely justify the detrimental effect on you personally and on your legal case.

The Personal Downside

  • The Angry Spouse. A case which might otherwise have been settled easily, amicably and inexpensively often turns into a difficult, acrimonious and very expensive battle when one of the parties starts dating. Yes, you have the right to date, but you also must bear the significant consequences of that decision.

    Your dating a new person may cause your spouse to become irrational and filled with a desire for revenge. Your spouse will use your dating as evidence that the divorce was caused by you and your new friend (even if it is not true and even if you did not meet your friend until after the two of you had already separated). It does not matter whether your spouse's anger over your dating is fair or not. That anger will make the case much more difficult to settle, and it will drive up the cost of your divorce, perhaps dramatically.

    Your spouse may openly or subtly try to alienate the children, relatives and friends against you.

  • Your Relationship with your Children. Your dating will naturally have a tendency to cause your children to be alienated from you, sometimes dramatically and irreparably alienated. The children will feel you abandoned their other parent, and they will sympathize with and align with the other parent. Also, they will tend not to accept your new friend even though they might have willingly embraced that new friend if you had waited until after the divorce to start dating.

  • Your Personal Wellbeing. While a divorce is pending, and for many months thereafter, a person goes through tremendous emotional and psychological changes. Your perspective on life and relationships may change every few weeks. This is no time to be making major life decisions, and it is certainly no time to be entering into a new long-term relationship. Everyone is aware of the dangers of "rebound" relationships, and there is no reason for you to be getting yourself into that situation especially when the negative consequences can be so dramatic on so many different levels.

The Legal Downside

The impact of your dating during divorce on your legal proceedings can be devastating on many levels.

  • Custody and Parenting Time. If you date during the divorce proceeding, your spouse will be less likely to want to settle custody and parenting time issues on a reasonable and rational basis. Your children will be less likely to want to be in your custody and will be less likely to want to spend time with you if you do not have custody. Frequently, children will simply refuse to spend time with you if your friend is going to be there when the parenting time takes place. It is not unusual for children to become so alienated that there is a complete breakdown of the parent-child relationship. Put bluntly, judges and experts who assist the court in making custody and parenting time determinations are not impressed with a person who dates during a divorce. Dating shows callousness toward the feelings of the children. It demonstrates a lack of empathy. It could be considered poor role-modeling for the children. The dating-parent is viewed as selfish and self-centered, a person who does what he or she wants without due regard for the impact on others including children. The decision to date during the divorce could tip the scale in favor of the other parent in a custody battle. It could result in you having less parenting time than you otherwise would have been awarded. Actually moving in with your new friend during a divorce often is a disastrous action for all of the reasons just mentioned.

  • Effect on Child Support and Spousal Support. Dating will not normally have an effect on an award of child or spousal support; however, if you move in with your friend, this decision will almost certainly adversely impact you in the area of support.

    If you are the spouse who is likely to be ordered to pay spousal support, the court will view you as having more money available to you to pay support to your spouse because you are sharing expenses with your friend (house payment, utilities, etc.). The decision to live with someone while a spousal support case is pending could cost you many tens of thousands of dollars over the duration of the spousal support award.

    If you are the person who is likely to receive a spousal support award, living with your friend and sharing expenses means that you do not need as much spousal support. It could cost you not only many thousands of dollars in reduced spousal support, your decision could result in no spousal support being awarded.

    In the area of child support awards, when a person lives with someone else and shares expenses, the court can use that fact (and often does) as a basis to set the child support obligation higher (when the obligor is living with someone) or lower (when the obligee is living with someone). This is called a "deviation" from the presumed level of support according to the state guidelines for child support. The court does not actually add together into the support calculation the income of the parent and the live-in friend. The court is considering that an obligor with a live-in friend has more money available to pay support and an obligee with a live-in friend does not need as much support.

    Judges tend to be conservative and the type of people who are not necessarily impressed with someone who begins dating shortly after the parties separated when children are involved. Judges always try to be fair, but a judge's gut reaction towards you could possibly sway the judge in making his final decision about the level or duration of support or about property division issues. You do not want to put yourself in a position of having a judge not like or respect you because of what the judge might consider to be poor decision making on your part.

  • Effect on Property Division. The job of a judge is to make a property division award which is fair overall. During the course of a divorce, the judge is required to make many decisions about many different topics. The slightest nuances in the case can cause the judge's decision on any topic to fall in your favor or against you. A judge may never say out loud all of the factors that affect his or her decision, but it is in your best interest to do everything possible to make sure the judge likes and respects you. If you date during your divorce, especially if that dating has an adverse impact on children, you may have harmed your position with the judge. If you live with someone during the divorce, the court can consider that as a factor in the property division. Living with someone and sharing expenses places you in a better financial position compared to the position you would be in if you were living alone and having to pay all of your own expenses. A court might conclude that, as a result of your improved financial circumstances, certain property division issues should be resolved in favor of your spouse. A judge might conclude that you could afford to pay more money to your spouse as a property division judgment because of your improved financial circumstances. Or a judge might conclude your spouse should pay less money to you as property division because your live-in improves your circumstances.

Summary

My advice to you is simple. DO NOT DATE DURING DIVORCE AND CERTAINLY DO NOT LIVE WITH A GIRLFRIEND OR BOYFRIEND DURING THE DIVORCE. If you feel you must date, be as discreet as possible, preferably not allowing anyone to know you are dating. Wait until a reasonable time after the divorce is over before introducing your friend to your children. Do not blame your spouse for becoming irrationally angry and your children for becoming resentful and alienated from you. Accept responsibility for your own decisions, and accept the potentially dramatic consequences of your actions.