Divorce can be a lengthy process, and for many divorcing couples, the marriage is over emotionally long before a divorce is legally pursued. It’s not uncommon for a spouse to consider dating while their divorce is pending.
The short answer to the question ‘to date or not to date’ is that there is no law in Massachusetts that prevents spouses from dating after separating or divorcing. So yes, you are allowed to date when your divorce is pending. However, before diving into the dating pool, you should be aware of the potential legal and financial consequences.
Keep in mind, under the law, you are considered to be legally married until a judge officially divorces you. In regards to the financial aspects of a divorce, property division and support are determined by the Probate and Family Court using the factors outlined in General Laws Chapter 208, Section 34. One of the factors that come into play is the ‘conduct of the respective parties during the marriage.’
The Probate and Family Court will give little consideration to dating when dividing marital assets unless a spouse going through a divorce is spending a significant amount of money on their new love interest. This can be viewed as a dissipation of marital assets and can result in awarding the other spouse a more significant share of the marital assets.
Financial support or alimony is the other financial aspect determined by Probate and Family Court. Outlined in General Laws Chapter 208, alimony can be “suspended, reduced, or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient spouse when the payor shows that the recipient spouse has maintained a common household, as defined in this subsection, with another person for a continuous period of at least 3 months.”
Other legal factors that can come into play for a dating spouse include custody and parenting issues. When children are involved, a parenting plan is presented to the court during divorce proceedings. This process can be significantly more difficult if the other spouse does not approve of a dating parent’s significant other. Also bear in mind, the character of a spouse’s significant other can be scrutinized by state officials to determine whether this is an appropriate person for the children to be exposed to.
Additionally, dating during divorce may distract you from addressing personal emotional distress, impact your settlement strategy, or even your ability to settle your case. The decision to date is a personal one. However, the impacts can be far-reaching.
If you need an experienced attorney you can trust, contact our office for guidance on the dissolution of your marriage.