It’s not at all uncommon for clients to want to date during their divorces. And there’s no law against it.
But is a move that should be made with extreme caution. Here are some of the issues you ought to be considering before you try taking that next step during this crucial time in your life.
Can it really impact spousal support?
Yes, and no.
California is a no-fault divorce state. Judges aren’t supposed to consider the conduct of either spouse, either during the divorce, or after, when dividing up assets or evaluating things like spousal support. They don’t even consider affairs unless marital assets got spent on the affair.
In reality, the formula judges use to calculate spousal support is complex, and includes a clause which allows judges to consider any factor they consider just and equitable. While a judge may not make a point of increasing or decreasing spousal support for this reason alone, it may enter into private deliberations.
If you are cohabiting with the girlfriend or boyfriend there may also be an assumption that you can afford more support (if you’re the payor) or you need less support (if you’re the payee). This, too, can impact the final amount.
If you’re able to come up with a spousal support settlement before going into court the judge’s opinion may not matter. But dating during your divorce can complicate this matter as well (see below).
Can it really impact a custody battle?
Yes. The judge has to consider what’s in the best interests of the child.
If your new boyfriend or girlfriend is already interacting with the children then the judge must consider the character of that individual. This means the person you’re dating can end up involved in your divorce in ways you never wanted them to be or imagined you would be.
But there can be an impact even if you don’t introduce the new boyfriend or girlfriend to the kids. If the judge feels you’re acting inappropriately with the new date he or she may question your ability to manage parenthood responsibly.
Can it hurt anything if you don’t have kids?
Check your intentions. Why is it really important to date now? Are you trying to show your ex you’ll be just fine without him or her? Trying to get revenge? Trying to avoid your emotions? Motives like this can have a negative impact on your case whether you realize it or not.
The only way you should even think about proceeding is if you can say with a clear mind and conscience, “I’m doing this for all the right reasons.”
Does it matter if my spouse gets angry about it?
It does if you want a fast, amiable, inexpensive divorce that settles out of court. If you’re happy to pay more to battle it out with a hurt, infuriated spouse that’s your decision, just make sure you’re going into it with your eyes wide open.
You may think your spouse can’t possibly care. But you’d be surprised how people react, even when the other party was the one who initiated the divorce in the first place.
Is this relationship worth it?
Some therapists suggests it will take years to recover from your divorce enough to make dating make sense. And while you shouldn’t necessarily wait years, it’s probably a good bet you’re not really ready to be dating just yet. At the very least, you should come to a place where your relationship with your ex is as amiable and as business-like as it’s likely to get.
You’re unlikely to spot red flags, because your attention is already divided. There’s a great chance this is a rebound romance for you. And relationships that happen in the middle of a divorce rarely last. In part because you’re just unlikely to be in a good place right now.
Given all the risks outlined above, does it really make sense to pursue this relationship right now?