There is no Washington State law prohibiting you from dating before your divorce is finalized. However, it is generally a good idea to refrain from pursuing new relationships until after your current marriage comes to an official end. This may be especially true if you have children with your current spouse. Let’s take a look at some of the pitfalls of seeing other people before your divorce is finalized.
The Impact of Dating During a Divorce
Dating before a divorce is finalized can have several effects on the proceedings. Even in no-fault divorce states, it is still possible for marital misconduct to be factored into decisions depending on the circumstances involved. It is also possible for the new relationship to be considered in the division of property or spousal support determinations, potentially impacting the amount the dating spouse may receive if they are living with a new partner. If a spouse is dating but not living with a new partner, any expenditures due to the new relationship (gifts, vacations, etc.) could also be factored into property division.
On an emotional level, dating during a divorce can also create heightened conflict. The spouse who is not dating might suspect cheating or be angry that the other spouse can move on. These emotions may make him or her less inclined to reasonably negotiate, which could lead to a contentious and difficult environment to finalize the divorce.
The Impact of Dating on Child Custody
As a general rule, it isn’t a good idea to expose your son or daughter to a new partner immediately after a separation or divorce occurs. This is because there is a chance that your children could become attached to a person who may eventually exit their lives with little or no warning.
Furthermore, you may not know if your new partner has a history of sexual assault, substance abuse, or other issues that could put your child in harm’s way. While courts generally do not allow the wishes of children to dictate custody decisions, they might consider an older child’s preference, especially if the parent’s new partner is creating an uncomfortable atmosphere at home. Although it may not seem fair, a judge’s responsibility is to protect the children’s best interests. If the new dating partner is potentially dangerous or a bad influence, these factors will affect the judge’s decision.
The Impact of Dating on Support Payments
During divorce proceedings, issues like child support and child custody can be worked out between the parties or can be left up to the judge’s discretion. Many judges disapprove of parents who start dating too soon after a divorce and may let their disapproval sway their decisions about support or visitation rights.
This is especially true when one spouse is living with a new partner. When a judge determines how much support a spouse should receive, factors like living arrangements come into play. If one spouse shares expenses with a new partner, that spouse should (arguably) either pay more support or receive less support.
Chad Foster is a trusted Washington lawyer serving Snohomish and King counties with an office in Bothell. Contact us today to discuss your legal issue.