Can I Date While Going Through a Divorce?
In short answer, yes, you can. However, maybe you need to ask a better question to get the information you are really looking for. In many situations, what people actually want to know is Should I date while going through divorce or how will it affect my case if I choose to date while going through a divorce?
Should I Date While Going Through a Divorce?
A person is legally considered married until divorced. In Kansas, they have a process called bifurcation which allows a person to get legally divorced before all issues are decided or resolved in their case. Generally, Missouri does not allow a similar process. Thus, in Missouri, you are unlikely to get legally divorced until all issues in your case are resolved and addressed, either through settlement or through a scheduled trial date.
Often when people are going through a divorce, they are experiencing a time of great change, renewal and personal growth. For some people this means that they meet an ideal person who better suits their needs in a relationship. It is a common time for new relationships to form.
How Will My Case Be Affected If I Date While It Is Pending?
There are many ways that the case can be affected. Certainly, if your marriage is ending because of an affair, it is almost certainly going to create a large amount of issues and complications if you continue to date the person that you engaged in an affair with.
One of the first things you should do if you anticipate going through a divorce and you want to date someone is get competent and experienced legal counsel. In the parameters of an attorney-client privileged conversation, you should share the full details of your relationship and history with your family law attorney and get advice specific for your individual situation.
What are some Potential Legal Consequences of Dating While My Divorce is Pending?
There are several different possible factors, even outside of any allegations of misconduct that could be affected by your election to date someone while your divorce is pending. Some examples are if you have children, the other party could argue that your priority is in the person you are dating rather than in spending time with and focusing on your children. Potentially, your election to date someone could affect the outcome of your child custody case. Some people are so happy and focused on their new relationship that they willingly agree to or accept minimal parenting time to spend most of their time with their new love interest. Often in these situations, a few months later when that relationship ends, the party ends up regretting failing to focus on being the best parent possible and requesting to spend as much time as possible with his or her children.
If possible, it is best to shield the children from being around and spending time with the person you are dating while your case is pending. This is in the best interests of your children because it allows you to focus on them while there are changing emotional needs with their family situation changing. However, if your children learn from the other parent or through some other method that you are dating someone new, the kids may feel additional anger, hurt or betrayal that you’ve kept something significant from them. Additionally, if you are in a relatively new dating relationship, it is best for your child that you spend some time developing your dating relationship and wait to introduce the new person to your children until you are certain that the relationship is stable and long-term. In addition, your children are likely to adjust better to a new person being in your life if you introduce him or her slowly, over time to allow your children to adjust to the idea.
In other circumstances, if you have a new significant other, it may affect property/asset distribution or the court’s consideration of an award of maintenance or spousal support. Certainly, if the court believes that you have expended marital assets or resources on the new boyfriend or girlfriend, the court can disproportionately offset assets to account for this dissipation. Additionally, if you are making a request for maintenance, the court may believe that your new significant other can contribute or share in meeting your needs if the other party and the court is aware of your new relationship. Similarly, if the other party is requesting maintenance from you and they can show that you have spent a significant amount on wining and dining your new significant other, the court is more likely to believe that you have an available cushion of resources to provide financial support to your spouse. Allegations of infidelity may generally influence the judge to feel sympathetic toward the other party and in areas of wide judicial discretion, the judge may err on the side of the party he or she feels sympathetic towards.
Outside of Legal Consequences, What Are Other Impacts of Me Dating While the Divorce is Pending?
Generally, the greatest impact of you dating someone else while your divorce case is pending is likely to be whether the process between you and your spouse remains amicable or not. Many spouses see it as disrespectful and “throwing it in their face” if you are dating a new person while working on divorcing them. Sometimes, situations that should be very cooperative and amicable turn sour quickly when your spouse is angry and hurt that they perceive you have moved on too quickly. Often if someone suspects an affair caused the breakdown of the marriage, he or she becomes focused on engaging in discovery, reviewing and analyzing financial records and other items to try to pinpoint the time frame when he or she believes the affair began. Although this is often unnecessary in a divorce case for legal or court purposes, a party has the right to seek this information through discovery generally.
On the other hand, experiencing being wanted, respected and appreciated by someone after not having those needs met for a significant time can be a meaningful part of your healing process. For many people, starting a new relationship or the possibility of a budding new relationship can bring out release of bitterness, anger and can facilitate healing as you move forward.
Are There Benefits to Waiting to Date Until I’m Divorced?
The largest benefit to waiting to date until you are divorced is that there is no chance that your election to date will have an impact or negatively affect your case. If you are the spouse who wanted or initiated the divorce, particularly if the other party felt they did not see it coming or did not want it, he or she may be particularly emotional about coming to the conclusion that you have already moved on with a new person. They may react strongly to their belief, misplaced or not, that your affair with the new person caused the breakdown of the marriage. If your former spouse can point the finger at your infidelity, they will likely convey this as the cause of the breakdown of the marriage to family, friends and possibly even your children. It may put family, mutual friends, business colleagues and other important people in an uncomfortable position of disagreeing with you dating someone new while your divorce case is pending. People who jump into a new romantic relationship are often tempted to spend significant time pursuing that enjoyable relationship and may fail to continue to nurture their family or other friendship relationships. This could result in hurt or strain in those relationships as those people want to support you during your divorce process but feel suddenly and unexplainably cut off or distanced from you.
Often if the other party feels anger, resentment or betrayal about their perception of an affair or being wronged about the conclusion of the marriage, the hurting spouse will be less open to settlement opportunities and even working with you to creatively find solutions and resolutions to the issues that the two of you have to deal with.
The other significant consideration is that waiting allows you to engage in individual, personal growth. For many people, they have not been alone, outside of a relationship for 10, 20, 30 years or more. Often it is very healthy for your personal growth and healing to have some time being “single” without becoming immediately involved in another relationship. Divorce cases are also stressful, time consuming, emotional and paper work intensive. If you believe you have found the perfect person to date, testing their commitment to you by asking them to wait to become romantic until you have resolved your divorce case will ensure that you do not lose the perfect relationship because you are emotionally unavailable, or spending significant time addressing the needs of your divorce case or even helping your children adjust to the divorce situation. Finally, some people going through a divorce are in a place of loneliness, hurt and anger and you do not want to get into another relationship without being able to meaningfully focus on determining and considering if this new relationship will meet your needs for the future.
If you are committed to dating someone while your divorce case is pending, protect yourself by calling to schedule your consultation or case assessment with one of our attorneys today at Pingel Family Law. It is important that you discuss and disclose your intentions to your divorce attorney and allow them to give you comprehensive advice about how your decisions could affect the outcome of your case. If you have children and there is a possibility that your new love interest will spend time or interact with your children, it is crucial to your custody case that you ask your family law attorney to perform a background check on the person. This will allow you to have full information and not make a crucial miscalculation in judgment that permanently costs you significant or meaningful access to your children. Call Pingel Family Law today for a consultation for your divorce in Missouri or Kansas. Let our experienced attorneys help you consider your situation at (816) 208-8130.
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