Can I Date While Going Through a Divorce?
A divorce should be the first step toward the next phase in your life. Divorce is a time of change, renewal, and growth. While you might be eager to move on with your life as soon as the divorce is filed, there are reasons why dating during a divorce can be detrimental to your case. There is no law prohibiting dating during divorce, but there are practical reasons why it makes sense to keep dating to a minimum until the final papers are signed and the final judgment issued. Below, our experienced Alabama divorce and family law attorney discusses a few of the reasons why you should be cautious about dating during a divorce.
Openly carrying on a new relationship while a divorce is ongoing has the potential to affect your custodial rights and responsibilities. If your ex can claim that you have a regular series of romantic visitors to your home, they may convince the judge that your home is less safe for holding primary custody. Even if you only have one significant other, some judges may believe that exposure to a parent’s new romantic partner is less healthy for a child going through divorce. Especially if your new partner has a criminal record or criminal contacts, the court may look at your new relationship as evidence against your home being a safe and healthy environment for your children. Whether or not such viewpoints are accurate is less important than whether the judge in your case holds such a perspective.
In Alabama, spousal support is meant to “rehabilitate” the recipient spouse, meaning it is supposed to be limited to a time period that allows for the recipient to get the training, education, or skills necessary to support themselves. Alimony is usually limited to a maximum of five years unless rehabilitation is not possible. In either circumstance, alimony could end if the recipient finds another means of support, such as if they remarry. In many cases, a spouse “cohabitating” with a new romantic partner will be sufficient to terminate alimony, even if they have not married. So, if you move in with your new boyfriend or girlfriend during the divorce, you may undercut your case to collect any alimony at all.
Moreover, while Alabama has no-fault divorce, “fault” can still be a factor in determining spousal support. If the court believes your new relationship started before your marriage ended, the court might hold that against you when determining alimony.
Escalation of Conflict
In addition to the legal reasons why dating can hurt your divorce case, there are interpersonal reasons as well. Divorce can be emotionally challenging for everyone involved. The more amicable you and your ex can be during the divorce, the easier the divorce process will become. If you can remain professional and cordial, you might be able to negotiate a settlement and avoid a protracted legal battle.
However, if one party openly starts a new relationship while the divorce is still pending, it could possibly pour salt in the wound of the other party to the divorce. Making things more heated is likely to make it more difficult to reach an agreement through mediation or settlement negotiations. Moreover, you may endure additional conflict with mutual friends and family members for not waiting until the divorce is finalized to publicly date someone new.