It doesn’t matter if your divorce has been a long time in the works. Or you recently found out that you and your husband have reached the end of the road. You finally feel free and want to move on to the next chapter in your life, which includes finding someone special to spend your days with, and maybe nights, too.
You have friends who began dating before finalizing their divorce and are either having fun meeting new people or are knee-deep into a new relationship that has them walking on air. Whatever the case, they seem so happy. So why, then, is your lawyer telling you dating might not be such a good idea right now. If everybody’s doing it, how bad can it be?
Well, that depends. Here are a few reasons why you might want to hold off on expanding your love-life until you’re officially divorced.
Your ex is against you dating
Having an angry ex lurking in the shadows waiting to punish you can make your life a living hell. One of the quickest ways to anger a soon-to-be-ex is to start dating someone new when they feel dead set against it. They will look for every way possible to hold your moving on against you, which, as I discuss below, could have drastic consequences for you depending on the state where you live.
Aside from hurting your bottom line, an angry ex could use your dating life against you in a personal way, which can affect you and your children, if you have any, emotionally. Not to mention, place the person dating you in the middle of your nasty breakup, which is not a great place to be.
The no-fault divorce
Depending on where you live and whether your state, the one in which you’re divorcing, is a no-fault divorce state, dating before you have a signed divorce decree could raise some legal issues for you. Currently, the list of no-fault divorce states includes Colorado, California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.
A spouse seeking a divorce in these states may not allege fault, including whether their spouse was unfaithful. In the remaining states, including my home state of Alabama, adultery can be held against the offending spouse as part of the alimony calculation and can bleed over into custody as well.
All of that said, officially counting and poisoning the well are two different stories. Stand before the wrong judge, mediator, or arbitrator, and you’d be surprised how decisions can quickly turn against you somewhat unofficially. Though you may not consider your dating behavior to be adulterous, in addition to your ex, someone else in a position of power might. And it could cost you more than you anticipate.
As I mentioned above, an unfaithful spouse may receive an order to pay the aggrieved spouse more in alimony as a “penalty” for their behavior. I also said how adultery could affect custody. And how much parenting time a parent has with children correspondingly impacts finances.
The amount of child support a court will award you or direct you to pay is related to how much time you have with your kids. The more time you have, the more you will spend on food, childcare, carpooling, and the like. These expenses are not as easily quantifiable.
How much money you spend on dating itself may also be relevant, especially if the cost comes out of marital funds. In some situations, a court can require you to reimburse the other spouse for those expenditures later.
If the person you date before finalizing your divorce becomes a somewhat permanent fixture in your life, that, too, can affect your wallet. It can affect the amount of alimony determined, perhaps obviate it completely, since you have someone else contributing to your support or supporting you entirely.
If that person doesn’t wind up staying with you for a long time or permanently, you may find yourself seeking a post-divorce judgment to recalculate spousal and child support. That’s never opportune.
You’re not ready
Are you sure your reasons for wanting to date are aboveboard? If your motives for getting out there are to anger your spouse or get back at them, by no means are you ready to date now. When people are interested in meeting someone new for real, they go into it with a clear head — and intentions.
There’s a caveat to this, and that is, unless you’ve had enough time to heal, your intentions may mean little compared to your readiness to date. It’s true, some separations are long, and the divorce process can take years. But depending on how fresh your breakup is or its circumstances, you may not be in a “good” place yet for meeting someone new. Ask yourself if you are, and be honest with yourself as you answer.
You have kids
Whether you’re ready to date will have little to do with if your children are. And likely, it will take longer for your children to get used to Mom or Dad spending time romantically with someone other than each other.
If you’re separated, your children probably haven’t had ample time to deal with your split, let alone you moving on from it in front of them. Older children, including teens, are no exception and can react and lash out in various ways. Therefore, it’s critical to keep a close watch on how they’re responding to your impending divorce and not make it more of a transition than it has to be.
It’s understandable why dating at this time can seem appealing. The prospect of a new chapter is exhilarating. However, you’re not on the clock. Nora Ephron summarized it best when she said, “Marriages come and go, but divorce is forever.” That’s lucky for you because it means you have plenty of time to date.
This post was written by divorce attorney, Charlotte Christian,Esq. of Huntsville, Alabama. Charlotte Christian, Esq. is a family and divorce lawyer and founder of Charlotte Christian Law. Headquartered in and serving cities throughout Alabama, Charlotte is in the process of opening offices in multiple states around the country. Charlotte is committed to helping those who experienced loss overcome their hardships and build a new life, stronger and more resilient than they were before. No stranger to trauma herself, including enduring the sudden losses of her father while a young child and husband after 10 years of marriage, Charlotte knows what it means practically and legally to put the pieces in place to create a future filled with security, hope, and opportunity, and find happiness once again.