Every once in a while I am asked by clients whether or not they should get into a relationship during the divorce proceeding. This issue of dating during a divorce can either be a non-issue or a serious one.
Obviously, we don't give out relationship advice. Our role as family law lawyers is to help guide our clients through a divorce proceeding. However, it is true that dating and relationships during a divorce can have both a legal and practical impact on the family law case.
In this article, we will discuss the main points of impact that may occur and present some tips which will help you avoid problems with your divorce case.
Dating during a divorce - do you know who you're dating?
In contentious child custody cases, you may want to think of yourself as being under an unfair microscope. I use the word unfair because far too often every single action you take will be unfairly judged by your spouse or your spouse's lawyer and may even be presented to the court as evidence that you are not acting in the child's best interest as defined by child custody laws in California.
I use the term microscope because it is not unusual for parents to keep a watchful eye on the other parent in the hope of catching him or her in actions that can be used in court during the child custody proceeding.
While this is not typical for every case, the child custody cases that have a lot of acrimony do result in such unfortunate hyperbole.
This is why you may want to be careful who you date and who you get serious about during a divorce. Consider whether you should know the person's relevant history and past as it may become a factor in the child custody case.
Will your new mate be babysitting the child?
Will your new mate, even if not alone with the child, spend a significant amount of time with the child?
Do you intend to infuse the new mate into your child's relationship to the extent it may frustrate the other parent or cause the other parent to feel as if you are engaging in alienation of the child?
Does your new mate have a checkered past, such as a criminal record or other publicly accessible record which shows him or her to be of questionable character or a danger to the child?
These are some of the things you should take into consideration when dating during a divorce and especially if you intend to get serious about the person you are dating.
How you avoid such situations is a question that should be asked of a therapist or another professional who is experienced and educated on the issue of dating and relationships. However, you may find that common sense is the single most important weapon you have in avoiding relationship mistakes during your divorce that could actually hurt your child custody case.
Dating during a divorce - do you intend to move in with your new mate?
It is not unusual during a divorce case for the husband or the wife to start dating and even get serious about a new mate. It is obviously not uncommon to move in with someone of the opposite sex for romantic reasons. People even do it for a combination of romantic as well as practical reasons, especially when the new mate can be somewhat of a provider to the spouse going through a divorce.
However, if you are in such a situation and intend to move in with your boyfriend or girlfriend, recognize that this can have a significant impact if you are receiving or intend to receive spousal support during your divorce. That is because California Family Code 4323 states:
"(a) (1) Except as otherwise agreed to by the parties in writing, there is a rebuttable presumption, affecting the burden of proof, of decreased need for spousal support if the supported party is cohabiting with a nonmarital partner. Upon a determination that circumstances have changed, the court may modify or terminate the spousal support as provided for in Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 3650) of Part 1.
(2) Holding oneself out to be the spouse of the person with whom one is cohabiting is not necessary to constitute cohabitation as the term is used in this subdivision.
(b) The income of a supporting spouse's subsequent spouse or nonmarital partner shall not be considered when determining or modifying spousal support.
(c) Nothing in this section precludes later modification or termination of spousal support on proof of change of circumstances."
In other words, if you cohabitate with a "nonmarital partner" (the statute used to limit this to the opposite sex but the legislature finally caught up with the times) and you are the supported person, the court presumes that you do not need the same level of support from your spouse. This presumption is not conclusive. That means you can rebut it but you will need persuasive facts to do so. However, this is a method used to reduce spousal support in California.
Dating during a divorce - the jealousy factor
We are not going to spend a lot of time on this topic but it is at least worth mentioning that dating during a divorce can cause the other spouse to become angry or even hostile toward you and your new mate.
This is true even when your spouse is the one who left the relationship and wanted a divorce. It is worth you considering whether dating during a divorce (especially if you have a spouse with poor anger management skills or one that is vindictive) can wait and whether it is best to not take an already difficult situation such as a divorce and make it a bit more complicated by bringing in a third person into your life.
Ultimately, such a decision is 100% yours and you have the absolute freedom to date whoever you want during the divorce.
Dating during a divorce - got additional questions?
If you have concerns about any of the issues related to dating and divorce and questions as to whether or not dating during a divorce may have an impact on your family law case, we encourage you to speak with your divorce lawyer as well as your therapist or counsellor about such issues.
Taking a reasonable amount of time to consider your decisions before you make them and weighing the benefits and burdens with dating during a divorce may not only help you and your family law and custody case but can help you manage your new relationship without unnecessary complications.
Our attorneys are available for an initial consultation. Please call us to speak with us or complete our contact us form and we will get back to you immediately. We have offices in Orange County and Los Angeles.
How about some more interesting reading?
Check out our article on how to serve divorce papers. It's good and informative reading on a subject that isn't discussed often enough. Want to enter into a family law settlement agreement but not regret it later? Then you owe it to yourself to read the linked article.