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What you should know about dating during divorce

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Maybe you are involved with an affair partner or are chatting up old college boyfriends on Facebook. In either case, these are tricky waters, but not entirely off-limits, says Magnolia Levy, a New York City divorce attorney.

Dating during divorce can make your divorce far more difficult.

“If your ex finds out there’s another person in the picture, it can ratchet up tensions and end up provoking your ex thereby creating a more difficult process overall,” says Levy who was named a Top 10 Attorney Award from the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys.

This post will elaborate on issues with dating during divorce, as well as answer these questions:

Is it illegal to date while going through a divorce?

It is legal to date before your divorce is finalized. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t legal consequences or other implications that you need to consider should you decide to date before you are single. 

As family attorney Magnolia Levy stated, the legal risks of dating during divorce include escalating conflict, compromising your parenting time and rights, as well as forfeiture of alimony.

What to keep in mind if you are dating during divorce

There are some important things you should keep in mind if you’re thinking about dating during divorce proceedings.

Dating during divorce can compromise your custody arrangement

The people you date could be a consideration in any custody determination. 

Says Levy: “If your new partner has questionable lifestyle habits or a criminal record, those could be used to question whether you have good parental judgment and potentially affect your decision-making rights and parenting time. So, too, could your decision to introduce your children to your new partner before the divorce is finalized.”

Starting a new relationship during divorce proceedings could also complicate your co-parenting relationship. Your ex may be resentful, and therefore less likely to be cooperative.

Moving in with a romantic partner could compromise your leverage in financial negotiations 

“In addition to potential custody issues, moving in with a significant other could affect your claim for spousal support,” Levy warns.

Legally known as cohabitation — the definition may vary by state — but if you are living with a significant other, the person paying spousal support (alimony) can ask the court to end the payment agreement. 

In some cases, even if you are not benefiting financially from your new partner, the court can rule to end spousal support.

Dating could prolong the divorce process

Your spouse could drag out the process if they are not ready to move on and feel like you are starting a new life without them. If seeing you happy with someone else is upsetting, you might experience pushback on finalizing your divorce. 

If ending your divorce amicably is your top concern, you should consider waiting until your divorce is final to avoid potential roadblocks.

Dating too soon could hinder your ability to heal from your marriage

Are you keeping this new flame in perspective? A divorce occupies 90% of your mind and emotions. A new relationship can occupy 90% of your mind and emotions. Something has to give. There is a reason why the first relationships after a divorce don’t often last long. They can be intense and fun but when they end, it can cut deep.

If you don’t feel ready for the highs and lows, it’s OK not to jump back into the dating scene right away. Give yourself time to heal before introducing a new person into the mix, or try dating casually.

Dating can be stressful for your children

If you have children, they might feel strong emotions about seeing you with someone new, especially so soon after you’ve separated from their other parent. It’s a time of transition for everyone involved, and children need time and support to process these changes.

Children may also feel confused about how your new relationship will impact their already changing family life.

Check out my advice on when to introduce your children to a new partner.

What about dating a man who is separated, and not yet divorced? 

See advice above:

He is 100% on the rebound.

He is occupied with his divorce, his kids, his money, his dignity, a major trauma.

You could have a really great time, but if you are looking for love and commitment, be wary. Revisit this man after he is divorced. Right now he may be fun, but he is a walking red flag.

Is dating during divorce adultery?

Technically, if you are physically and legally separated, it is not considered adultery if you date. It would be considered adultery if you had sexual contact prior to being separated, or if that was the reason for your separation.  Is it OK to date while divorcing, before the divorce is final?

There are practical reasons not to date while divorcing, listed above.

But you are human, and you are horny, and it is nice to be seen and touched and hang out with a hot, nice person. Some people can keep that casual, but most people in the middle of a trauma like divorce cannot.

The answer to this question is also geo-specific. In states where a 30-day, no-fault divorce is common, it is less becoming to date while divorcing. It makes the newly single person seem really desperate.

However, in a state like New York where divorce takes for-fucking-ever, everyone dates while separated, and it is 100% understood to be OK.

Here’s what we found when we reviewed dating apps.

No. 1 dating app for relationships: A review of eharmony

How do you date someone going through a divorce?

Carefully, while also dating other people.

Levy's advice for dating while married and going through divorce:

  • Be discreet. Do not share about your dating life on social media.
  • Keep your romantic life separate from your kids and parenting time. Do not introduce your kids to your new lover, and for the love of all things holy, do not bring them around to school and extracurricular events.
  • Do not move in together until the divorce is totally finalized.
  • “Talk to your lawyer first,” Levy says. “Assuming you get the OK from your attorney, keep it private, and be smart about it.”

How to date while your divorce is pending

If you are still interested in — or actively — dating while your divorce is pending, here are a few guidelines:

  • Be discreet. It can be tempting to flaunt your hot new lover, rub your new freedom in the face of your soon-to-be ex, or miserably married friends, but refrain. Dating during divorce can nix any possibilities of an amicable divorce, compromise co-parenting and otherwise make an already tense situation worse.
  • Keep your children’s feelings in mind. While introducing your kids to a new boyfriend or girlfriend is typically not a huge deal, be respectful of your children's grief and confusion and keep your romantic life private for now.
  • Check your feelings — and commitment level. You have not been single for a very long time. Likely sex- and touch-deprived. You are not at your best, and in a big transition. This is not the time for a big relationship. If you need to sober up: Note the very high divorce rates for second and third marriages.
  • Be respectful of the other person. Keep in mind that the fact that you are going through a divorce makes you a dating red flag.
  • Don't miss an opportunity for personal growth. Heal from a toxic relationship. Grieve your ex and move past your marriage.

Keep in mind: You were just in a miserable, long-term relationship. Why the rush? Now may be an ideal time to focus on yourself: try therapy, join a divorce support group, practice self-care, or spend time making new friends.

Can I date while separated?

There are two things to keep in mind about dating during a marital separation and divorce proceedings: How will this impact the divorce? Are you keeping this new flame in perspective?

Is dating during divorce adultery?

Technically, if you are separated, you can date and not technically be cheating on your now-ex. But keep in mind how many people are ‘friends' with their exes and keep having sex. It's a process.

What are the potential consequences of dating during divorce?

As family attorney Magnolia Levy stated, the legal risks of dating during divorce include escalating conflict, compromising your parenting time and rights, as well as forfeiture of alimony.

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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