October 9, 2018

What About Dating During the Divorce Case?

The divorce laws expressly state that an extra-marital relationship that is the cause of the divorce is a factor that a judge can consider in making alimony and property division orders.  But what about a relationship that starts after the divorce case is started but before it is final?  Existence of the relationship is not a negative by itself.  But there may be an impact on settlement or even, in certain circumstances, outcome in court.

Another relationship, whether just casual dating, or more intimate or living together, can fuel emotions in the other spouse – anger, fear, betrayal, jealousy, distrust – to name a few.  The spouse may want to get revenge by using legally available tools to punish, embarrass or confront the other spouse or their lover.  They may not understand or care that spending time and money on those actions will make settlement more difficult and likely won’t strengthen their legal case.  The money wasted reduces the pot that the spouses will ultimately share so that both spouses, not just the one with the new relationship, take a financial hit.

The new relationship may play out more subtly. A spouse may resent and resist paying alimony or sharing assets that seem to benefit an unworthy spouse or the spouse’s lover.  A spouse may feel entitled to extra alimony or assets if the other spouse can afford to spend money on the new relationship.  Those feelings interfere with a reasonable and rational financial settlement.

Where there are children involved, a spouse may feel threatened as a parent and so be less willing to share parenting time or wish to limit the other spouse’s time with the children as retribution for having the new relationship.  That happens especially where the children are exposed to the new romantic partner.  The resulting conflict over custody and visitation hinders settlement, not to mention the longer-term damage to the relationships among each of the parents and the children.

Sometimes the financial aspects of the new relationship can have an impact on the financial orders in the case.  A judge might interpret the money spent on the new relationship by one spouse as indicating an ability to pay more to the other spouse or to justify a smaller asset share to the spouse with the new relationship.  On the flip side, financial support from the new partner might result in a lower financial order to the spouse which leaves them financially unstable if the new relationship ends.  While the likeability of a party to a divorce shouldn’t be relevant to a judge’s decision, let’s be realistic.  Evidence of the relationship with a new and possibly younger or more attractive partner, while the spouse weeps in court and appears to suffer won’t necessarily go unnoticed by the judge.  To be sure, that spouse’s lawyer will stress the alleged unfairness of the situation to the judge.

As is typically the case in divorce, there is no fixed rule of thumb.  Paying for a movie date isn’t the same as taking the new friend on a 10-day cruise.  Moving in with a romantic partner might have little risk in one setting while casual dating may be risky and dangerous in another.  Every case is different.  Find out what’s best for you by having a candid discussion with your lawyer.



Many thanks to RJ Media Group which first published this article in the October 4, 2018 edition of The Cheshire Citizen.

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