If you are thinking about dating during divorce... DON'T!
By Tracy Achen, divorce coach
Many people assume it's okay to start a new relationship once they've separated or started the divorce process. But there are a number of strategic, legal, and emotional reasons it's wise to hold off on the dating scene until after your divorce is finalized.
Emotions are raw during a divorce. When you start seeing someone else, it is like rubbing salt into your husband's wounds. Believe me, he will likely react to the fact that you are dating by making your life hell during the divorce process. He may seek revenge to compensate for the anger, hurt, and embarrassment he feels you have caused him.
Even if your husband has carried on numerous affairs during your marriage, he will not think that you are justified in seeing someone new at this time. All he will focus on is that he has been wronged and may seek justice anyway he can. He may try to even the score by fighting about custody of the children or how to split the marital estate.
If you have children, you also need to realize that it's in your best interest to try to keep a cordial relationship with your husband. You will most likely have ongoing contact with him after the divorce because of your children. Dating during divorce can poison the spirit of cooperation and affect your life for a long time after the divorce is final (and possibly after the new boyfriend is history).
As far as the courts are concerned, you are still legally married until the divorce is finalized. In states that recognize fault in a divorce case, dating during divorce can be viewed as adultery. This can affect the outcome of your divorce as far as spousal support and the eventual property settlement goes.
Even if you have been separated from your husband for a while, dating during your divorce can be used to help prove marital misconduct during your marriage. It can look like you have questionable morals, even if you were the perfect wife during your marriage.
To top it off, a really vindictive husband might consider suing your boyfriend for alienation of affection. This will put your boyfriend smack-dab in the middle of your divorce, which is a quick way to put a damper on your new relationship.
You need to be especially careful if you have children from your marriage. Not only will both you and your husband's conduct be scrutinized during a custody case, but the conduct of your boyfriend may also be considered. If he has a shady background, it can be used against you.
Any person who has frequent contact with your children can become part of a custody investigation. If your boyfriend has past issues of domestic violence or charges of sexual misconduct (proven or not), it will have repercussions in your divorce.
Another point that you should think about if you are considering living with your boyfriend is that it can affect the level of support you may eventually receive. Even if you ultimately get custody of your children, child support levels may be lowered because you are living with someone and sharing the expenses.
It can also have a big impact on whether or not you will receive alimony and how much you receive. This can even apply to a temporary support order, because once again, you are sharing the expenses with someone else. It would be a shame to forfeit your future support on a relationship that may not last.
The bottom line is that if you date during your divorce, you are giving your husband a big advantage. Don't sacrifice your future on a new relationship. Wait until after the divorce is finalized before you start to date.
When you are separated or going through a divorce, the attention a boyfriend shows you can feel like a breath of fresh air and boost your self-esteem. While he may serve as a distraction and help you avoid some of the pain of your divorce, you will eventually need to face those emotions.
While it feels good to be needed and wanted, it's unlikely you're emotionally ready to deal with a new relationship. You will still have to deal with all the issues that caused the breakup of your marriage and make peace with the fact that it's really over.
A new relationship at this time is not going to be based on the real you. Imagine how differently you will act when you are not under extreme stress and when your life is more stable. You need time to discover that you can make it on your own without a man to support you emotionally or financially.
When you are going through a divorce, you're usually not in the best frame of mind to make permanent choices. Studies have shown that the first relationship that a person enters into after a divorce has little chance of long-term survival and will rarely end in marriage (1).
So what should you do if you believe that this new man is the one you should have married in the first place? Make life easier on you and him both by postponing the relationship until the divorce is finalized.
If he truly is as special as you think, then he will be willing to wait. Once all the papers are signed, you can resume the relationship and see if it still feels the same. If it doesn't, you have saved both of you a lot of heartache.
What if you are determined to continue the relationship anyway? I would seriously recommend talking with your lawyer first. The new relationship might not have much bearing if you have had a long-term separation from your husband, don't live in a fault state, or if your divorce is uncontested.
Even then, follow your lawyer's suggestions and keep the relationship under wraps and out of the public eye. Even though it may seem like your divorce is taking forever, you owe it to yourself to not stir up the dust.
Tracy Achen is the author of Divorce 101 and publisher of WomansDivorce.com
Now that you understand that dating during divorce is not a good idea, what else should you take into consider during a separation or divorce? The following tips on what to expect can help you get prepared:
How Men Handle Divorce - What to do if things get ugly.
Preparing For A Divorce - Strategies for avoiding the pitfalls.
Getting Through A Divorce - Taking care of the practical aspects of life.
Pre-divorce Advice - Why it's important to create an exit plan.
1. Too fast, too soon? An empirical investigation into rebound relationships