A question we often receive from clients beginning a divorce is whether they can start dating. The answer to this question is always specific to that client’s situation. When considering whether dating during divorce proceedings is a good idea, consider the following:
What Type of “Dating” Behavior is Problematic?
Typically, when in a divorce proceeding, cohabitating with a new significant other, introducing a new significant other to children early in the new relationship, and continuing a relationship with an individual with whom you had an extramarital affair, can complicate divorce proceedings or jeopardize a litigant’s position in their case. This is why, in general, most divorce attorneys don’t recommend dating during a divorce.
Is Your Spouse Making Allegations of an Affair?
In Missouri, proof of marital misconduct can affect property and debt distribution, so depending upon one’s goal in dividing marital assets, this can be an issue. Moreover, if you are in a contested or high-conflict dissolution case, use common sense and do not engage in conduct that will cast you in a negative light. Judges are human, and sometimes when a litigant has engaged in unsavory behavior, although it is not relevant to the proceeding, it will cast that litigant in a negative light. Only you know how much you have to lose (or gain) financially from your divorce proceeding- don’t set yourself up for failure by flaunting an extramarital affair.
Is Either Party Requesting Spousal Maintenance?
Lavishing expensive presents, trips, meals out, or financially contributing to the household of a new boyfriend/ girlfriend during your divorce can be problematic. Remember that your bank records and credit card statements are easily obtainable; leaving a trail demonstrating disposable income for a new love interest can haunt you.
Is There a Child Custody Battle Brewing?
Introducing a new significant other to children is always tricky, but it takes on new considerations if you are in a contested custody case. Introducing your children to a new love interest will introduce that individual to your spouse, who will discover that individual’s criminal history, driving record, social habits, etc. It is essential to consider these ramifications before you start dating a new individual. Finding out from your spouse’s attorney that your new significant other has a criminal history, or a sordid past, is not a pleasant surprise or productive to your custody case.
A Few Don’ts
- Don’t date before physically separating from your spouse. In addition to the stress this could cause your spouse and children, a judge may look at this negatively regarding your divorce agreement and child custody rights.
- Don’t use dating apps. The information you post on dating websites is public and can be used in court against you. If you decide to use an online dating app, be extremely cautious about what your profile says and how it could look to the judge.
- Don’t introduce your children to the people you date. Introducing your children to new love interests can cause confusion and pain. Until you know that a new relationship will be long-term, it’s best not to introduce them to your children.
- Don’t think you have to be alone. Connecting with others who understand what you are going through is important.
Some Important Do’s
- Do seek support. There are many ways to find comfort and support for you and your children. Kids in the Middle is one St. Louis area organization that specializes in helping families cope with divorce and other difficult transitions. Look for divorce support groups, friends, and family who can help comfort you and your children.
- Do socialize in groups. If you have not yet physically separated from your spouse, group social activities are probably best.
- Do be careful around your children. If you already have a new romantic relationship, remember that way you say and do in front of your children could come back to haunt you. If you wouldn’t want to discuss it in court, then it’s not for your children to see or know.
- Do be honest with potential partners. If you meet someone you are interested in, be honest about your situation. Moving forward romantically while in the process of a divorce may not be the best option for either of you.
Dating Before Your Divorce Is Finalized
Missouri law does not prevent you from entering a new relationship before your divorce is complete. However, many issues can arise when you start dating before your divorce decree is finalized. Your divorce attorney is the best person to consult. They can explain how dating could impact the outcome of your divorce and child custody based on the city and state where you live.
The biggest consequence of dating during a divorce is usually an emotional response. Divorce is an emotionally charged experience for everyone involved. If you decide to date, ensure you understand how to protect yourself and your children during the divorce process.
Hire An Experienced Divorce Attorney
The attorneys at the Lecour Family Law can help you navigate complex and stressful family legal matters, including divorce, child custody, and child support. Call us at (636) 685-0440 to schedule a consultation. We pride ourselves on offering family legal services tailored to your specific needs.
Lecour Family Law is located at 1270 Jungermann Road in St. Peters, Missouri. We serve clients throughout St. Charles, O’Fallon, Troy, Warrenton, and St. Louis.