When a couple begins a divorce, one often thinks a third party came between the couple and someone had an affair. While not the principal reason for divorce, adultery is still high on the list. Does cheating on one’s spouse during marriage affect divorce, and if not, would dating during divorce be ok as well?
Missouri is a no-fault divorce state; we no longer consider adultery a penalty when someone gets a divorce. But we should be clear: while the mere fact someone had an affair during the marriage does not automatically translate into one party receiving an unequal distribution of property, having an affair is a form of marital misconduct judges can consider in making a distribution of property. Typically, simply cheating alone will not result in an unequal distribution of property. However, if one spent significant marital assets to have clandestine affairs on vacations in island locales or to buy a paramour expensive gifts, one will have to pay those sums back through the unequal distribution of property.
Should dating be generally ok once parties separate and the divorce process has already begun?
One can look at this question from different perspectives.
From a legal perspective, some judges remain old-fashioned in their views and may frown upon someone moving on before the ink has even been written, let alone dried, on the divorce papers. Further, if the parties have children and a spouse not only starts dating but does so in the presence of the children, courts could consider this behavior negatively in making a custody decision, as it shows real insensitivity to the children and their emotions during a tumultuous time. Finally, if your estranged spouse is not over you or the marriage and has a jealous streak, dating so quickly could only make that spouse angrier and more likely to use the legal process for revenge. So, from a legal perspective, dating during divorce is a really bad idea.
From an emotional perspective, one can understand feeling pain from divorce and the need to move forward and find comfort in someone new. Everyone heals in different ways and at different times. But it is statistically unlikely that you will find your next great love during a divorce and much more likely you will make a poor choice because your head is not in a great space yet. Generally, therapists recommend taking time simply to heal from the broken marriage, take stock and evaluate what you would want moving forward before taking that leap.
From the children’s perspective, they will not be ready to see their parents moving on so quickly. They have just had their life upended and they have not fully processed what that means and how they feel and what it will do to their lives. Introducing new people only adds to their anxieties, and risks the parent hurting the relationship by giving the impression that the parent’s needs are more important than the welfare of the children.
Looking at the issue from all these different perspectives, dating is generally not a good strategy during divorce. However, as the divorce drags longer, some friendly outings with new people might be a transition to ultimately dating. One can socialize and get one’s feet wet without formal dating or doing something too overt or too sudden or just too much.
If you have questions about dating and divorce, contact us – we can help.