“When can I start dating?” – A simple question, without a simple answer
In almost every divorce case, I’m asked, “When can I start dating?”
Whether and when to date during divorce poses several challenges:
- You don’t know how your spouse will react and how much it will become an obstacle for your spouse during the divorce process.
- In Maryland, adultery is a sexual relationship with someone other than your spouse during your marriage, which has no legal exception for relationships after the separation. So, adultery can be a ground for divorce, is a misdemeanor, and might be relevant to decisions about alimony, property division, and possibly custody and parenting of children.
- Your spending on non-family expenses, including dating and dating partners, will be scrutinized during the divorce. So, you need to expect to account for it and it may count against you in the overall financial division.
- While perhaps only in extreme situations, if it negatively impacts your children or puts them at risk of harm, it can influence custody and parenting outcomes.
- If your case does not settle and you have a trial, you don’t know how a judge will view dating and extramarital relationships, even after the separation. For some judges, it is not an important factor; for others it may be.
If you have a signed and written settlement agreement resolving all issues, then dating during a separation and after a divorce often has far less of an impact, unless your agreement limits introducing children to dating partners.
Until a divorce is resolved, either by a signed and written settlement agreement or a judge’s decision after a trial, both spouses live under a microscope. While is it natural to want to move on socially and romantically, dating during divorce happens under that microscope.
It is well worth considering how much of an issue you are willing for it to become in the divorce process.
- Is it worth having your online dating profile introduced into evidence at trial?
- Is it worth having to account for and explain every meal out and other non-family expenses?
- Is it worth having a personal life into which your estranged spouse has the right to inquire in the divorce process?
- Is it worth wondering if introducing your children to your dating partner will affect the outcome of your custody case?
- Is it worth having after separation dating cause a settlement to fall apart?
Only you can decide. In my experience, it usually leaves my clients feeling more exposed than they think it worth, and I don’t disagree.
Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke and University of Baltimore School of Law. Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law.