A question I often receive from clients beginning the divorce process is whether they can begin dating. The answer to this question is always specific to that client’s situation, but, overall when considering whether to start dating, during your divorce proceeding, here are some considerations:
- What type of “dating” behavior is problematic to a divorce proceeding? Typically, when in a divorce proceeding, cohabitating with a new significant other, introducing a new significant other to children early in the new relationship, and continuing a relationship with an individual with whom you had an extramarital affair, can complicate divorce proceedings or jeopardize a litigant’s position in their case.
- Is my spouse making allegations that I had an affair that resulted in the breakdown of the marriage? In Missouri, proof of marital misconduct can affect the distribution of property and debt, so depending upon one’s goal in dividing marital assets this can be an issue. Moreover, if you are in a contested or high conflict dissolution case, use common sense and do not engage in conduct that will cast you in a negative light. Judges are human, and sometimes when a litigant has engaged in unsavory behavior, although it is not relevant to the proceeding, it will cast that litigant in a negative light. Only you know how much you have to lose (or gain) financially from your divorce proceeding- don’t set yourself up for failure by flaunting an extramarital affair.
- Am I requesting maintenance or is my spouse requesting maintenance? Lavishing expensive presents, trips, meals out, or financially contributing to the household of a new boyfriend/ girlfriend during your divorce can be problematic. Remember your bank records and credit card statements are easily obtainable- leaving a trail that demonstrates disposable income for a new love can come back to haunt you.
- Is there a custody battle? Introducing a new significant other to children is always a difficult, but if you are in the midst of a contested custody case, it takes on new considerations. Introducing your children to a new love interest will introduce that individual to your spouse, who will discover that individual’s criminal history, driving record, social habits, etc. It is important to consider these ramifications prior to introductions! Finding out from your spouse’s attorney that your new significant other has a criminal history, or a sordid past, is not a pleasant surprise or productive to your custody case.