Can I start dating again before my divorce is final?

It’s normal for people who are getting divorced to want to start dating other people as soon as possible. After all, it may have been a long time since they were in a good relationship. They want to experience the hope and excitement of something fresh and new.

But if you’re still going through divorce proceedings, there’s a lot you should think about before you start playing the field. That’s because – depending on the circumstances – dating can be very detrimental to the divorce process.

Here’s a look at some of the problems that dating during divorce has the potential to create:

A bitter ex-spouse. If one spouse is actively dating, it can cause very negative emotions in the other spouse. The other spouse may become angry or hurt, and may also suspect that you were dating before the split, and thus that you were responsible for the break-up.

As a result, a divorce that was moving along smoothly may turn into a war. The other spouse may dig in, refuse to negotiate, and seek revenge. This can make the whole process much more frustrating and expensive.

A dating partner dragged over the coals. It’s not unheard of for a person who is dating a divorcing spouse to get dragged into the court case. The person may be required to provide testimony under oath about whether the couple are having sex and how long they have been involved, how much the divorcing spouse has spent in connection with the relationship, whether the spouse gave the partner any gifts from marital funds, and whether the spouse shared any “secrets” that could be relevant to the divorce proceedings.

This can be embarrassing and hurtful to your case, and is obviously not a great way to start off a new relationship.

Unhappy children. Divorce is often very difficult for children. It’s common for them to feel abandoned, hurt, and even angry, and to experience emotional turbulence and instability.

As a result, it can be very difficult for them to be with a new person in your life. Even if the new person is wonderful, children often aren’t ready to accept them, and may respond by being rebellious or developing a preference for the other spouse.

Not only is this hard on the children, but it can make it much more difficult to win custody in court.

More custody issues. Children aren’t the only ones who may react negatively to your dating before your divorce is final. Remember, until you’re actually divorced, any sexual relationship you engage in is technically adultery. Judges, psychologists, and other experts who are involved in a custody determination may be turned off by the fact that you’re already dating someone, and may question your ability to be a role model.

In addition, if your dating partner has anything questionable in his or her background, this could factor into a custody decision. This could include an arrest record or allegations of violence or sexual misconduct – even if they were never proven.

And if you’re not seriously involved with anyone and are simply going on casual dates with a variety of people, an angry ex could try to portray this as promiscuity.

Property division and alimony problems. If you’re living with a dating partner, or otherwise sharing expenses or receiving financial support from him or her, this could make it harder to get a fair financial settlement.

That’s because a judge might decide that you’re able to pay more in alimony and child support, or that you don’t need as much alimony and child support. A judge might also consider your new partner’s support when dividing assets such as a house or investment accounts.

Your ‘profile’ under scrutiny. Many divorced people who start dating again use websites such as Match.com, eHarmony or OkCupid. And they not infrequently exaggerate personal information or leave out important details in their profiles.

For example, they may represent themselves as “single” or “divorced” when they’re still technically married. They may also go on to fudge information about children, job status, income, interests and experiences, etc. This information – and any lies or exaggerations – could be used against the person in the divorce case.

In the end, whether to date during a divorce, and how discreet you are about it, are highly personal decisions. But it’s a good idea to talk to your lawyer before you start dating, so that you’ll fully understand any risks you might be taking.