Many couples know that their relationship is over—and perhaps even live separately—for many months or years before they file for a divorce. In some situations, couples may even be separated and back in the dating game, despite the fact that their divorce is pending. While dating again after your separation may feel completely natural, it’s important that you understand the potential consequences of dating before your divorce is finalized. To learn more, reach out to our experienced divorce lawyer at the Law Office of Heather M. Ward today.
Are You Allowed to Date While a Divorce Is Still Pending?
The first question that many clients have when they are getting divorced is whether or not dating is allowed while a divorce is pending. Officially, there is no law in Massachusetts that prohibits a person who is separated from their spouse from dating, regardless of whether their divorce has been finalized. However, the question isn’t really about if dating is allowed, but rather how dating could impact a divorce settlement. There may be potential and legal consequences of dating before a divorce is finalized.
Will Dating Impact My Divorce Settlement?
Depending on the circumstances of your case, dating before your divorce is finalized could certainly impact your divorce settlement. In fact, the judge may factor this into each decision they make pertaining to property division, alimony/spousal support, and child custody. Here’s how dating could impact each of these important issues during a divorce—
- Property division. Courts in Massachusetts must divide assets in a divorce in a way that is equitable, or fair and just to both parties. While most of the time this means that assets are divided in a way that’s relatively equal, a judge may deviate from this norm if financial misconduct is discovered on the part of either spouse. For example, if one party was having an affair or is dating and is using shared marital resources to support the external relationship, the judge may view this as financial misconduct and issue an order that is more favorable to the other party.
- Alimony. Alimony is available when one party is financially dependent on the other and would not have the means to support themselves without the other after the marriage. If the financially dependent spouse is dating, though, there could be a case made that the new partner is providing financial support, thereby negating or undermining the dependent spouse’s need for spousal support. This is especially true in the event that the two parties are living together, which will almost surely impact an alimony order.
- Child custody. Finally, a judge is responsible for issuing a child custody order that is within a child’s best interests; one parent’s dating relationship(s) could certainly impact that. For example, a judge could feel as though it is not within a child’s best interests to be exposed to a parent’s new partner or set of partners so soon after separation from the child’s other parent. Divorce can be psychologically taxing on a child, and a parent’s new romantic relationship could exacerbate this.
How a Divorce Attorney in Massachusetts Can Help
Knowing your rights and what to do to protect your interests in a divorce case is very important. At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, our divorce attorney in Massachusetts can provide counsel and support as you navigate your divorce, whether you’re dating again or not. Call our Massachusetts divorce lawyer directly at (617) 903-8955 today or use our contact form online to send us a message at your convenience.