We’re taught to move on from divorce.
When people don’t, they’re said to be “stuck in the past,” or “they can’t get over their ex.”
And we should move on from divorce. While it’s healthy to mourn the loss of your closest relationship, you have to put things behind you at some point to grow and move ahead.
So, how quickly should you move on? More specifically, when should you start dating?
To answer these questions, let’s imagine you’re getting divorced but still married, and you’re already dating. Will that hurt your divorce?
Let’s look at this from a couple different angles.
Angle 1: No Kids
If you have no kids, then dating after separation but before your divorce is signed probably won’t hurt you.
If all you’re doing is dividing up debt and assets (e.g., the home, personal property, etc.), then things are usually pretty straightforward. The reason for the divorce rarely plays a role in determining who gets how much of the 401(k), or who takes what percentage of the Visa card.
I say this, but there are a couple caveats:
- Emotions can make everything more difficult.
While the math might be pretty straightforward, emotions can cause people to fight because they’re hurt. Even though they don’t have a leg to stand on, hurt will cause some to want to punish their soon-to-be ex in the form of taking more money. Math is easy; wrath is not.
- In certain situations, adultery can affect alimony.
There are times under Utah law that adultery can affect alimony. These situations are few and far between in my experience, especially if the adultery happened after separation, but it’s something to keep in mind and to be cautious about.
Angle 2: Yes Kids
Kids complicate everything, especially in divorce.
That emotion that had the potential to complicate asset and debt division, but probably wouldn’t, that emotion will almost certainly complicate your divorce if you are fighting about custody and parent-time.
Your soon-to-be ex will distrust the new person you’re dating. They may hate that person simply because you’re dating them. They may blame the marriage breakup on that person, even if that has nothing to do with reality.
Because of this, the new person you’re dating will likely make coming to a resolution of the divorce more difficult.
Let me give you a couple specific examples of what I mean by more complicated:
- We’ve had spouses negotiate terms that the kids cannot be introduced to anyone the other person dates for at least six months.
- We’ve had spouses negotiate terms prohibiting the kids from being alone with the other person’s dating partner because the dating partner was an “unknown” and a “safety risk.”
- We’ve had spouses negotiate terms that the kids can’t be left alone with the other person’s dating partner, even if the other person marries the dating partner.
- We’ve spent more time than I care to admit negotiating terms that preclude new dating partners and new spouses from ever disciplining the spouses’ children.
And that’s just a preview of how new dating partners have made things difficult.
And then there are people who bring the new love interest to mediation. Good heavens, you have never seen people shut down out of anger until you have one spouse bring the new lover to mediation.
My bottom-line recommendation is this: hold off on dating until you’re done with your divorce. It makes everything so much easier. It removes negative emotions from the equation that do nothing but make the process harder. Just wait.