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By Alisse C. Camazine

I’ve been practicing divorce law for over four decades. Although many aspects of divorce have changed with time, one question comes up year after year: Can I date while my divorce case is going on?

Dating during divorce can create a host of problems for you. While courts generally don’t consider dating during divorce as “misconduct,” they may be concerned about spending money on non-family expenses. Occasional dinners may not raise an eyebrow, but extravagant gifts and travel are much likelier to set off alarm bells. Courts can consider financial misconduct in determining how to divide property and whether to award maintenance (alimony). Dating also exposes the object of your affection to involvement in your divorce case. Do you want someone you are dating to sit in a lawyer’s conference room before a court reporter to answer embarrassing questions about your sex life? 

Think of your children, whose lives are already being disrupted by something beyond their control. Children are frequently depressed; they struggle to understand their role in the divorce, and they may miss one of their parents. Adding another person into their lives adds to their confusion. Children deserve your undivided time and attention. They are likely not to be ready to see you jump into a new relationship. They may think that by supporting your new relationship they are being disloyal to your spouse, and that could affect your relationship with your children for a long time. 

Children’s sense of time differs greatly from that of adults. Seeing you with a new partner may suggest to them that there is now a new member of the family. Younger children easily become attached to new people. Should your new relationship end, the children will suffer further instability. Before you introduce the children to a new partner, you should firmly believe that this new relationship will last.

Even without these concerns about the children, parents who add another potential parent figure to the family drama will very likely raise the level of conflict beyond what would otherwise be necessary, making the divorce uglier than need be. 

Still want to date? Start slowly. If you must involve the children, talk to them about it. Don’t have them spend the night with this new person. Let your soon-to-be ex know what’s up, rather than letting the children be the ones to deliver this news. If your children are in therapy, make sure you talk to their therapist about the best approach. 

The bottom line? 

  1. Protect your children through your divorce. That means reinforcing your relationship with them, assuring them you will be a constant in their lives, and considering their needs ahead of yours.
  2. Protect yourself. Dating may provide temporary relief from the legal process, but it is likely to raise the conflict level.

Talk about your dating plans with your lawyer BEFORE you say yes to dinner. A Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal family law attorney can help you assess the risks.


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