If you begin dating before your divorce is final, you are technically committing adultery. You’re still married, and married people can’t enter into intimate relationships with anyone other than their spouses. It may not matter if your relationship with a new partner is not sexual. The implication that it could be might affect your divorce proceedings. In some states, committing adultery is a crime.
Effect on Divorce Grounds
If you or your spouse has already filed a divorce complaint and your divorce is pending, you may think it’s okay to begin pursuing new relationships. However, if your spouse learns about it, she can amend her complaint for divorce from whatever grounds on which she filed to an allegation of adultery. This is marital misconduct. In some states, it can influence a judge’s ruling on property division or spousal support. If neither of you has filed for divorce yet, you’re even more vulnerable. Your spouse can potentially make a case that you began a new relationship before you decided to divorce, while you were still happily married. If your spouse names the person you’re dating in her initial or amended complaint, it legally involves that individual in your divorce lawsuit. He or she becomes a co-respondent.
Read More: Examples of Grounds for Divorce
Dating before your divorce is final and before a court decides custody issues can also affect your relationship with your children. This is especially true if they know what’s going on because you’ve introduced them to a new friend. If your spouse brings your activities to the attention of a judge, it may work against you in a dispute. You may end up seeing your children less post-divorce because of your actions, if your spouse receives primary custody. If you’re involved in a custody evaluation, the evaluator will look into your new friend’s character, if that person spends any time with your children. If your children are uncomfortable with what’s going on, they might not even want to spend time with you at first, and it’s not likely that a judge would force them. By the time the dust of your divorce has settled, you may need to seek professional help to repair the damage caused by their hard feelings.
Other Potential Lawsuits
Some states allow lawsuits for tort claims known as alienation of affection or criminal conversation. These lawsuits are brought against individuals who become romantically involved with a married person, alleging that the involvement caused the breakup of the marriage. If you don’t begin dating until after you or your spouse has filed for divorce, these lawsuits are generally not successfully. However, if you haven’t officially begun your divorce proceedings, anyone you get involved with might be vulnerable to one of these claims. When successful, they result in monetary damages paid to the injured spouse.
Speak with your attorney if you’ve met someone and want to begin dating before your divorce is final. Depending on the specifics of your situation, you might not be too vulnerable to repercussions, but only your attorney would know that. If you decide to go ahead and begin dating someone, be circumspect and don’t introduce that person to your children until after you’re divorced. Even then, you might want to give your kids time to adjust to the reality of your divorce first.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.