Trying to determine whether to start dating before your divorce is finalized is a tricky topic that touches on emotional, legal, and financial issues. An observer objectively looking at a divorce from the outside might say “better safe than sorry” and simply advise you to be patient and wait until the divorce is finalized to begin dating. But, of course, people going through a divorce get lonely and they may be longing for the type of companionship they felt was missing in their marriage. Below, we’ll take an overview of the risks of dating while in the divorce process in California, and provide some brief recommendations.
What California’s No-Fault Divorce Laws Means for Dating
California was the first state in the country to pass a “no fault” divorce law, which means that neither spouse must prove cause for the divorce, and marital misconduct such as adultery will not play a part in how the court divides up the spouse’s assets or awards spousal support. This means that, while other states may consider dating before a divorce is finalized to be adultery and thus factor that against the dating spouse in making financial determinations, a California court will not consider whether you are dating in dividing up property. That said, if you have moved in with another romantic partner, or that person is otherwise providing for you financially, your spouse may argue that you are entitled to a lesser amount of spousal support because your needs are less than they otherwise would be if you were not dating.
Custody and Dating
Where dating may come more into play is in the court’s determination of who should have custody of the children. A California court will look at a set factors related to the best interests of the child in deciding who should be awarded custody. These factors include the stability of the proposed living arrangements, any history of domestic violence, and the relationship of any “persons who may significantly affect the child’s welfare.” If your dating life includes one or more persons who will live with you and/or have a significant effect on the child, the court may use this against you in deciding who should get custody.
Dating and Emotional Tension During the Divorce
Even where one spouse may have desperately wanted out of the marriage or even carried on their own affairs during the marriage, that spouse can become agitated and very difficult to deal with if he or she finds out that you are dating others. This tension can of course happen long after the divorce is finalized, but at that point there is really not much the other spouse can do about it. But if the other spouse becomes angry or possessive about your dating before the divorce is finalized, there are plenty of things they can do to make your life difficult, namely delaying the divorce process or refusing to negotiate a settlement in good faith.
Such tactics often hurt the other party just as much if not more than they hurt you, but an angry, jealous spouse is not usually working out of a place of logic. The end result can be higher legal bills, an even longer delay before you can get your divorce finalized, and possibly less favorable terms if you come to the conclusion it is easier to give into their demands rather than deal with the ongoing battles. Thus, if you do decide to date before a divorce is finalized, the less you share this with others (including on social media), the better. There will be plenty of time to celebrate your new dating life after your divorce is finalized on terms that work for you.
Legal Guidance in Your California Divorce
Experienced, compassionate family law attorneys are available in Pasadena to guide you through all aspects of your divorce. To schedule a free consultation with one of our California family law attorneys, call Kearney Baker at 626-768-2945.