Can You Date Before Your Divorce Is Final?
While you may consider starting a new relationship or “dipping your toe back into the dating pool,” there are many reasons why attorneys advise against dating before your divorce is finalized. Below, we will discuss the potential complications that dating during the proceedings can have on your case.
Before we continue, it is important to note that how much dating affects your case will depend on how serious the relationship is and how you navigate the relationship (i.e. when you start the relationship, how you introduce the partner, etc.). We also recognize that whether or not you date during your divorce is entirely up to you. If you do decide to date, you should:
- Avoid bringing a new partner to court.
- Be respectful of your soon-to-be-ex’s and children’s feelings.
- Be mindful of what you post online.
- Tell your attorney.
Added Stress & Tension
Getting divorced can be emotionally and mentally draining, even in the best of circumstances. For the sake of amicability, you may consider waiting until after the proceedings conclude to start dating seriously. Depending on the tone of the proceedings and the relationship between you and your soon-to-be-ex, dating may only add to the stress of the situation. Introducing another person not only has the possibility of negatively affecting your relationship with the other party and/or your children, but it also brings your dating partner into the tension of the trial.
Spousal support is awarded to a party to help them financially maintain their way of living post-divorce. Depending on how serious your new relationship is, your alimony payments may be affected if your new partner supports you in any way. Moving in with a partner or accepting any financial gifts from a dating partner may affect a judge’s determination if brought to light in court.
The best interest of the child is the number one priority for courts/judges as they make custody decisions. According to Missouri Revised Statute § 452.375, the court will “consider all relevant factors,” including but not limited to:
- Each parent’s wishes as it relates to custody and their proposed parenting plan
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent
- The child’s needs and each parent’s willingness and ability to meet those needs
- The child’s adjustment to possible changes to school or home situations
- Either parent’s intention to relocate
- The child’s wishes as to who is their custodial parent
- The mental and physical health of all parties involved
- The child’s interrelationship and interaction with each parent, siblings, and any other person “who may significantly affect the child’s best interests”
The opposing counsel can try to argue that your new partner/relationship impacts your parenting abilities or the child’s safety. By dating, you may open your new partner up to scrutiny, as it relates to their:
- Relationship and interactions with your child
- Affect on the relationship between you and your child
- And more
Also, child custody arrangements may be delayed if a woman is pregnant. A man is presumed to be the father if:
- he was married to the child’s mother, and
- the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days of the marriage being terminated (via divorce, death, or annulment) or the couple entering into a separation agreement.
However, your soon-to-be-ex may question paternity and ask the courts to order a paternity test. Child custody and support arrangements will take a back seat until paternity is legally established.
To avoid complicating your child custody agreement, you may consider waiting to date or even introducing a new partner until after your divorce is final. You and/or your soon-to-be-ex may also wish to include terms that outline how and when a new partner can be introduced to your children in your divorce agreement to avoid future disputes.
Division of Property
It is also important to note that dating while separated but not finally divorced may be viewed as inappropriate marital conduct by the other party or the judge. Under Missouri Revised Statute § 452.330, when the courts are dividing your assets and debts, they will consider each parties’:
- Economic status (once the divorce is finalized)
- Custodial obligations for minor children
- Contribution to the purchase and upkeep of the marital property
- Separate property and its total value
- Conduct/behavior during their marriage
Dating during your divorce can complicate the division of assets as the opposing counsel tries to argue they are entitled to more assets. They may try to prove that you wasted assets on your new partner, which judges can factor into their final determination.
Wasteful dissipation of assets occurs when one party wastes or loses marital funds or assets through excessive means, such as gambling, financing a substance abuse addiction, or funding an extramarital affair. While this is hard to prove, the opposing counsel may still try to substantiate this claim. Even creating a dating profile or posting on social media about a date can be used against you (if you use marital funds).
Contact Our Divorce Attorneys
At Kallen Law Firm, LLC, we are known for providing our clients with honest, comprehensive legal representation. Our attorneys have over 45 years of combined experience and can help you with divorce matters, including:
- Divorce mediation
- Collaborative divorce
- Same-sex divorce
- High-asset divorce
- Divorces involving professional women and /or working mothers
- Post-divorce modifications
- And more
If you want to learn how dating might affect your case or find yourself in need of a respected divorce attorney, reach out to our team today. You can reach us online or at (314) 441-7793.