The question “Can I date during my divorce?” comes up all the time in my practice. I tell my clients it’s not a good idea to date until the divorce is final – there are too many complications. In spite of my advice, clients do date during their divorce. Usually it’s because they’re lonely or want to feel better about themselves. After all, what could go wrong on a simple date? Lots of bad things if you date while your divorce is pending. There are strategic, legal and emotional reasons not to date during your divorce. But, if you just have to date, please follow my list of do’s and don’ts of dating during a divorce.
Strategic Reasons Not to Date During Divorce
Dating while divorcing will create serious resentment in your spouse and he or she will make you pay during and after the divorce. In addition, your children may resent you seeing someone else when you aren’t divorced and may decide they don’t want to see you. Alienating your spouse and children in the middle of a divorce is not a good plan. It’s better to maintain a cordial relationship with your spouse and avoid unduly upsetting your children while the divorce is pending. A little thoughtfulness will pay big dividends when you co-parent with your ex-spouse and want a good relationship with your children.
Legal Reasons Not to Date During Divorce
In Texas, you technically commit adultery if you have sexual relations with someone other than your spouse before your divorce is final. It’s unlikely you will be formally charged with adultery, but having sexual relations with another person before your divorce is final can have negative financial consequences and could complicate custody arrangements. Adultery is one factor a Texas court may consider when awarding disproportionate assets to the innocent spouse. If you are doing a collaborative divorce, adultery may make it more difficult to agree about a parenting plan and it could adversely affect your property division.
Emotional Reasons Not to Date During Divorce
Dating during your divorce will probably make you feel better about yourself and help you avoid experiencing the pain of separation. However, avoiding your pain is not psychologically healthy. Sooner or later, you must experience those painful feelings and learn to deal with them. Moreover, even though it may feel good to begin a new relationship while you are going through a divorce, you are probably not ready to handle the emotional issues associated with beginning a new relationship so soon. Everyone knows about the “rebound effect” that relationships formed soon after a breakup rarely last. It will likely be months before you are emotionally ready for a new long-term relationship. You need time to heal and appreciate what went wrong in your marriage before you begin a new love. No matter how right this new person feels, you are almost certainly not in a good frame of mind to make the choice of a new mate.
Do’s and Don’ts of Dating During Divorce
Don’t even think about dating until you are physically separated from your spouse. If you must date while your divorce is pending, it’s better to socialize in a group. Don’t introduce your new friend to the children until after the divorce is final. And most importantly, avoid a pregnancy while you are divorcing. Dealing with a pregnancy will complicate and prolong your divorce. Your spouse will be resentful and you must wait until the baby is born to determine its paternity. Also, your children are likely to be upset if there is a pregnancy while you are divorcing.
It’s ok to socialize and network during a divorce, but if you meet someone you like, be honest about your situation. Exchange contact information, but it’s better to avoid one-on-one relationships until you are at least separated from your spouse. See a counselor or find a support group to help you cope with the pain and emotional stress of divorce. I understand you are miserable and lonely but tough it out and you will be glad later.