Over my many years of specializing in family law, I have had many clients ask me about dating during a divorce. This is a tricky question. Some attorneys take the position that there should absolutely be no dating until a divorce is final. There are also some situations where it becomes a moot point because one spouse has already been dating, perhaps for months or even years, before the divorce has actually been filed because of either one affair or serial affairs. In cases where I am representing the innocent spouse who did not stray from the marriage, is it okay for him or her to date? There is no clear cut answer.
Here are some of my thoughts on this subject:
1. If custody is an issue, dating is usually inappropriate. It is clearly wrong to introduce your children to your boyfriend or girlfriend during a divorce. If anything, you are putting the children into an uncomfortable position, doing damage to them, and also adding fuel to the fire towards your soon to be ex-spouse. Dating and custody often do not mix and this can be an issue in a custody case, so it is important that you really talk to your attorney about this.
2. What about where the children are not going to be involved? This is tricky. My attitude is one of allowing dating if it is not going to impact upon the children. In addition, it should not impact upon the divorce and should be done discreetly. The problem, in our high-tech society, is that it is almost impossible to be discreet. You could be seeing someone, on the other end of town or in another county, or even in another state, and you would be amazed at who you will bump into. In addition, with digital photography on every cell phone and other electronic devices, who knows who is watching you. Big brother is everywhere.
3. What about the case where there are no minor children, and your client wants to start dating? Some attorneys still say absolutely not. My attitude is one of allowing dating if is not going to impact upon the divorce, and if it is done discreetly. Every situation differs. I don't encourage dating during a divorce, but sometimes it is okay. Many judges have the attitude that until a divorce is final, you are legally married, and for that reason you should not date. Some judges will have a more lenient attitude and say, once a divorce is filed, unless there are child related issues, dating becomes irrelevant, unless someone is really being inappropriate.
In summary, in some situations it is all right to date during a divorce, but if you are going to do it, be cautious and remember that too often you will be adding fuel to the fire. Bear in mind that every situation differs and what makes sense for your best friend or neighbor, may not make any sense for you. Remember that everyone is on the side line, giving you advice, and often it is the wrong advice. What are your thoughts about dating during a divorce. Please share them with us.
By: HENRY S. GORNBEIN
Family Law Attorney & Legal Correspondent
40900 Woodward Avenue, Ste. 111
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304-5116
248/594-3444; Fax 248/594-3222