If you divorce, you may have questions about whether you should date during the divorce.. You’re about to learn how dating may affect your divorce, but as every case is different, you will eventually need to seek personalized advice from a metro Detroit divorce attorney.
Here in Michigan, everything you do may be examined during a divorce proceeding. Every action you take – every expenditure, every post on social media – will be scrutinized. If you’re dating someone or considering it, keep reading, because you may have reasons to be concerned.
Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means that neither divorcing partner needs to prove that the other is “at-fault” for causing the divorce. Nevertheless, if you dated someone else or cheated on your spouse during your marriage, or if you date during the divorce, fault may matter.
How Can Dating Affect Your Divorce?
If you and the spouse you’re divorcing live apart, and if your divorce is pending, dating could make the legal process longer and more complicated. A relationship outside of the marriage could affect the division of marital property and even the custody of your child or children.
Even if your divorce starts out in a “friendly” manner, when it comes to your children and the marital property, any detail or any behavior may spark acrimony and be used against you in the divorce process.
What Can Be the Consequence of Dating During Divorce?
If you date while your divorce is pending, a Michigan divorce court may presume that you are not sufficiently focused on the well-being of your children or that you are not spending enough time with your children at a sensitive moment in their lives.
Don’t be surprised if your spouse claims that explaining divorce to the children is difficult enough without a third party’s presence. There is at least an element of truth in that charge.
Unlike some states, Michigan does not require a 50-50 split of the marital property. State law only requires an “equitable” and fair division, so the court has discretion to make adjustments to the distribution of marital assets based on the behavior and character of the divorcing spouses.
If adultery is one of the reasons why you are divorcing, a Michigan divorce court may award to the innocent spouse a larger share of the marital assets and may also award alimony (legally called “spousal support”) to the innocent partner.
Why Do Attorneys Discourage Dating During Divorce?
Most divorce attorneys recommend against dating while a divorce is pending because dating can increase both the cost and the aggravation that a divorce entails. Judges may not directly “punish” a divorcing spouse for dating, but again, dating may affect the final divorce settlement.
If you start dating someone during your divorce, even innocently, your spouse may suspect that you were dating that person secretly before you separated, and that person may be subpoenaed by your spouse’s attorney to answer questions in a deposition or even at your divorce trial.
Your spouse’s divorce lawyer may want to determine when the relationship began, if it is sexual, if any marital property has been transferred to the third party, and how much has been spent on dating. Even if the relationship is innocent, it may lead to unnecessary expenses and acrimony.
As far as the courts are concerned, you are legally married until the divorce is finalized. Because so much is already involved in a divorce, whether in Michigan or in any other state, divorcing spouses should strive to keep the divorce as simple as possible rather than complicating it.
If You Choose to Date, Heed These Suggestions
However, if you decide that you are going to date someone while you are divorcing because you’ve fallen in love – or for some other reason – here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind:
1. Don’t even think about dating someone else unless you have physically separated and you are residing apart from your spouse. Otherwise, a judge may decide to award a larger share of the marital properties and assets to your spouse.
2. Do date with discretion. If it’s possible, do not even introduce your children to a new dating partner until well after the divorce is final. Meeting a new object of your affection can exacerbate a child’s emotional pain and could affect your child custody rights.
3. Do not impregnate someone or get pregnant before your divorce is final. Pregnancy will delay a divorce settlement until the child’s birth so that the court may confirm paternity and gauge the effect of the new child on the custody and child support determinations.
4. Do socialize in groups and meet new people, but do not be in a big hurry to partner up with someone.
5. If you meet someone new that you like, do be honest about your circumstances, and do not date that person while you are still residing with your spouse.
6. Do find a support group for people in your situation. The right group can help you cope with any feelings of isolation or abandonment.
The Benefits of “Taking a Break” from Dating
Even if you are the spouse who is seeking the divorce, err on the side of caution. Jumping right back into the dating scene is not always the best idea. Consider giving yourself a brief “cooling-off” period. Dating during your divorce may have some genuinely negative consequences.
If you have children, you must try to maintain a friendly relationship with their other parent. You will probably have to stay in touch with your ex regularly until your children reach age 18, and dating during divorce can become an obstacle to long-term cooperation on behalf of the children.
What Your Divorce Attorney Can – and Cannot – Do to Help
While the right Michigan divorce lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected and that you are treated fairly and justly in a divorce proceeding, no Michigan divorce attorney can guarantee that a divorce trial will not be uncomfortable or embarrassing.
Your texts, emails, and social media posts may be read by your spouse’s attorney and even by the judge. These communications are not private, and they may be used against you. Discretion is the key to getting through a divorce with a minimum of discomfort and embarrassment.
Whether your divorce is bitterly contested or amicably uncontested, you’re going to need the advice, insights, and services of the right metro Detroit divorce attorney, and you’re going to need that attorney’s help as early as possible in the divorce process.