Dating During Divorce
You Aren't Divorced Until It's Final. Tips and Advice for Dating While in the Process of Getting Divorced
Dear April Masini,
I’m almost divorced, and I can't wait to get out there and start dating. Is there any real reason I need to wait? Do you have any tips or advice for dating during the divorce process? Please give me some advice that will help with my future relationships!"
Signed, Almost Divorced
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Almost Divorced,
Almost pregnant is a state that does not exist. The same is true with almost divorced. You are or you aren’t. Sound harsh? It may be, but if you play by the rules, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache, stress on your kids – if you have them – money and wasted energy along the way. You may feel divorced, and you may not have slept with your spouse in years – in fact, you may not have lived in the same home with him or her for years – but if you’ve filed a marriage license and you never filed a divorce decree with the court system – chances are, you’re still married.
Acting Divorced Doesn't Make it So:
Acting divorced is not the same thing as actually being divorced. You and your spouse may have been dating other people and even living with other people, but again – if you received a marriage license when you first got married and you never filed a divorce decree and got a piece of paper from the court, signed or stamped by a judge that states you are legally divorced, guess what? You’re still married.
Do I Need to Be Divorced to Date?
So, you’re probably thinking, “What does it matter if the court system recognizes my divorce or not? It’s just a piece of paper you’re talking about. I feel divorced and I live like I’m divorced – therefore I’m divorced in my eyes.” That, my dear, is asking for trouble. Even if both you and your spouse – notice I’m not calling him or her your ex – think you’re divorced because you act divorced as opposed to being legally divorced – at any time if one of the other of you – or worse, a third party – decides to come after you legally for a myriad of things from debt collection to child support for a baby born outside your legal marriage, etc. – you’re still married.
So, how do you know you’re divorced? And more importantly, how do you know the person you’re dating is divorced – see this issue goes both ways. You may be perfectly divorced and you start dating someone you think is great – only to get an angry call from his or her spouse who doesn’t care that he or she is acting divorced – because they’re not. And that means legal obligations to the legal spouse. And legal obligations can translate into emotional obstacles for getting into and staying in a new, healthy relationship.
However – all that said – you will not get arrested, fined, or thrown in jail for dating if you’re married – or dating someone who is married whether you are or not. The law is not intended to regulate morality – just money and children’s custody. Unless, that is, you live in a state such as Florida....
Under Florida state law, adultery is listed as a punishable misdemeanor of the second degree in the 2011 Florida Statutes:
798.01 Living in open adultery.—Whoever lives in an open state of adultery shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s.
775.082 or s. 775.083. Where either of the parties living in an open state of adultery is married, both parties so living shall be deemed to be guilty of the offense provided for in this section.
798.02 Lewd and lascivious behavior.—If any man and woman, not being married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together, or if any man or woman, married or unmarried, engages in open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, they shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.
Dating During the Divorce Process:
The divorce process varies from state to state. In some states, like California, it is impossible to get divorced until exactly six months to the day after one party files a document with the court that claims a legal separation. Once you are legally separated, you are NOT divorced.
Dating during separation is not always a bad idea because it can help you decide whether divorce is really what you want. In fact, some people decide to get divorced, file a legal separation document with the court, move out of the home they shared with their spouse and begin dating – only to realize that they made a mistake and want to get back with their spouse and continue the marriage. This separation period in California was originally called a “cooling off period” intended to prevent rash decisions that lead to unnecessary divorce.
If you are legally separated and feel the urge to date, it’s probably a good idea. You may realize you don’t want to get divorced – or you may realize how much you really do.
However, this separation period can be complicated because while you’re deciding one thing – your spouse from whom you’re separated may be deciding the same thing as you – or something completely different. While you’re dating and realizing you want your husband and marriage back again, he may see you dating, become enraged that you’ve moved on so easily, and start planning a bitter divorce battle in which he plans to leave you nothing, financially, as punishment for hurting his feelings by moving on so easily. Or, if there are children involved, your spouse may decide to use the kids to hurt you by demanding and fighting for full custody simply because he or she is upset that there is another man in your life – and your children’s lives.
He Was the One Who Wanted the Divorce -- Why Should He Care if I'm Dating?
Because he does.
One of the biggest surprises in a divorce is that even though one person insists on getting divorced they may become furious if they see you getting on with your life -- let alone happily.
If custody is an issue -- or could be one -- your ex may be mightily threatened by having a step-dad or a step-mom in the picture, and your date's character may get dragged through the mud in your custody settlement that could become an ugly battle. If a judge thinks that you are subjecting your child to bad influences (bad driving, bad judgment, and all kind of other “bads” you never dreamed of, but your exes lawyers get paid to dream up), you may lose some custody of your children because of who you are dating. Fair or not, it’s reality.
Are All Divorces Such a Horror Show?
No. All divorces are different. Some divorces are amicable and lawyer-less. Some are protracted and go to trial. Some result in life-long venom, but others result in happy separations and blended families that all get along. But regardless, here are some things to consider when dating between your separation and your divorce:
Just because you are not living together and have threatened each other with divorce does not mean you are divorced or even legally separated. Know the difference. A legal separation is noted by a legal document. In states like California, you cannot get divorced until six months after the date of a legal separation. The reason that these dates are important is because there is not usually a legal financial or custody settlement until a divorce is finalized -- and even after a divorce is finalized there can still be an outstanding financial or custody settlement.
Who cares? You should. Why? Because exes get vindictive and angry if they see you dating -- or if you see them dating. And this vindictiveness can show up in punitive financial settlements or custody settlements that are not in anyone's best interest, but make the aggressor feel like he or she is punishing the other ex for dating by taking custody or money away.
Overall, keeping your dating during a divorce process on the down low is prudent for best results.
Once your divorce is finalized and you're ready to start dating again, check out my book for some great first date ideas, Ideas For A Fun Date.