The question “Can I date during my divorce”? comes up all the time in collaborative divorce practice. I tell my clients it’s not a good idea to date until the divorce is final. However, some clients still date during their divorce because they’re lonely or want to feel better about themselves. After all they think, “What could go wrong on a simple date?” Unfortunately, lots of things. There are good strategic, legal and emotional reasons not to date during a divorce. But, if a client must date, I ask them to follow my list of do’s and don’ts on dating during a divorce.
Strategic Reasons Not to Date
Dating while divorcing will generate serious resentment in a spouse and he or she will make life miserable for the dater. In addition, children may resent their parent seeing someone else before the divorce is final and may decide they don’t want to see that parent. Alienating a spouse and children in the middle of a divorce is not a good plan. It’s better to maintain a cordial relationship within the family and avoid unduly upsetting children while the divorce is pending. A little thoughtfulness will pay big dividends when a divorced couple co-parent and want a good relationship with their children.
Legal Reasons Not to Date
In Texas, a person technically commits adultery if they have sexual relations with someone other than their spouse before the divorce is final. It’s unlikely they would be formally charged with adultery, but having sexual relations with another person before a divorce is final can have negative financial consequences and may complicate custody negotiations. Adultery is one factor a Texas court may consider when awarding disproportionate assets to the innocent spouse. If the couple is doing a collaborative divorce, adultery may make it more difficult to agree about a parenting plan and could adversely affect the property division.
Emotional Reasons Not to Date
Dating during a divorce will probably make your client feel better and help him or her avoid experiencing the pain of separation. However, avoiding the pain of separation is not psychologically healthy. Sooner or later, everyone must experience those painful feelings and learn to deal with them. Moreover, even though it may feel good to begin dating while a client is going through a divorce, they are probably not ready to handle the emotional issues associated with beginning a new relationship. Everyone knows about the “rebound relationship” and is aware that attachments formed soon after a breakup rarely last. It will likely be months before your client is emotionally ready for a stable long-term relationship. Individuals need time to heal emotionally and appreciate what went wrong in their marriage before they begin a new love. No matter how right this new person feels, your client is almost certainly not in a good state of mind to choose a new mate.
Do’s and Don’ts of Dating During Divorce
I tell my client never to begin dating until they are physically separated from their spouse. If they must date while the divorce is pending, I recommend they do it with others in a group. I suggest they don’t introduce their new friend to the children until the divorce is final. Most important, I caution my client to avoid a pregnancy while their divorce is pending. Dealing with a pregnancy will complicate and prolong the divorce. Their spouse will be resentful and the divorcing couple must wait until the baby is born to determine its paternity. Also, children are likely to be upset if there is a pregnancy during the divorce.
I tell my clients it’s ok to socialize and network during a divorce, and if they meet someone they like, be honest about their situation. Exchange contact information, but it’s better to avoid one-on-one relationships until they are at least physically separated. I always recommend my clients see a counselor or find a support group to help them cope with the pain and emotional stress of divorce. I let them know I understand they are miserable and lonely but I recommend they tough it out and avoid dating until the divorce if final. Their divorce will be less complicated if they are patient. And, sometimes they actually listen!