For many, divorce is a bittersweet time of releasing the old and embracing the new, especially in terms of romantic relationships. When a marriage ends, both spouses may feel as though they failed, and as a result, they eagerly begin dating other people in an effort to feel good about themselves again. However, it is not typically a good idea to try and bolster self-esteem through others’ admiration and affection. Most relationship experts agree that a healthy self-image comes from personal introspection to learn from the past and build a better future.
While lawyers do not try to mandate divorced spouses’ personal behavior as it relates to beginning new relationships, they may suggest a cautious approach to dating after a divorce. Although both spouses are legally entitled to see other people and form new attachments, there are several valid reasons why it is often a good idea to take it slow immediately after a divorce, especially when children are involved. Although child custody might not be directly impacted when a parent dates other people, certain factors could lead to the other ex-spouse filing for a change in custody or child support judgments from the divorce.
Children’s emotional well-being.
The children of divorced parents often take the family breakup hard. They usually aren’t happy when Mom or Dad starts seeing other people, especially if it appears that the other person is quickly becoming part of a parent’s new household structure. A dating partner sometimes tries to discipline children of the newly-divorced parent in ways that are unfamiliar to the children, which can lead to anxiety or stress for all involved. In addition, kids do not want to see another person who may seem more like a stranger than friend begin to take the absent parent’s place. Children need time to adjust to shared parenting or being with one parent more than the other. Bringing a new partner into the picture can further complicate things, and some kids may decide they prefer to spend more time with the other parent than allow the new person to get involved in their lives.
Spousal support or child support.
Financial arrangements following a divorce are based on each parent’s economic status, including income and expenses. When one parent shares household expenses with a new partner, the other parent may try to get the court to recalculate spousal support or child support in his or her favor by claiming the new partner is helping the other parent with bills. This may be claimed even if the new person does not actually live with the other parent. Driving the children to school or extracurricular activities or taking them out to eat could lead to the other parent requesting a reduction of alimony or child support.
The short answer is that it is not wrong for divorced parents to date. However, the more detailed answer is that ex-spouses who soon after the divorce begin seeing other people or who establish committed relationships with others may run the risk of upsetting their children or the other parent who is concerned for the kids’ post-divorce adjustment and emotional stability. A judge will typically look more favorably on parents who do not rush into dating others or who do so discreetly. A new person should be introduced to the children only after they have gotten used to their new way of life following the divorce, and this can take time.
It is always a good idea to keep clear records of household finances in case the other spouse asks the court to reconsider child support or alimony judgments from the original divorce proceedings. Being able to show that each spouse is still the primary bill payer of his or her household can help to avoid significant reorganization of support amounts ordered by the court.