Easily one of the most common questions I get from my divorce clients – not typically at the first meeting but inevitably before too long – is “will it hurt my case if I start dating?“ It's a loaded question! Especially headed into the Valentine's Day weekend… Luckily, it's also one that's easy to analyze when broken-down into three (3) parts: _______
(1) Dating isn't illegal or unlawful and no, it's not likely to “hurt” your case.
Believe it or not, adultery is still technically illegal in a number of states but New Jersey isn't one of them. What's more, as my colleague Rick DeMichele, Esq. explained in a recent post, New Jersey divorce complaints are typically brought on a “no fault” ground and have no direct impact on custody, alimony or equitable distribution.
There are a couple of very narrow exceptions. For example, “If the betrayed spouse can show that the cheating spouse used a significant amount of marital funds to foster and continue the affair, then at that point, a credit in equitable distribution may be appropriate.” But that's an exception and not the rule.
Bottom line: legally-speaking, adults can “move on” to another relationship whenever they want.
Remarriage is obviously a different story. Until your divorce is finalized before the New Jersey Superior Court, remarrying is bigamy and illegal everywhere!
(2) However, that doesn't mean there aren't indirect impacts and significant consequences from dating outside of your soon-to-be-over marriage.
There's no law that says “you get less parenting time or alimony” for dating but please your head as well as your heart! Divorce is an emotional time for most folks going through it. While we also like to talk about “mutual break-ups,” you and I both know there's often one party who's a little more affected than the other. The bottom line: introducing a third party can influence the other party's behavior in a divorce.
You simply can't afford to discount the psychological and emotional component of the relationship. For example, if you suddenly have a new boyfriend or girlfriend sleeping over every time your kids are over for parenting time, don't be surprised when they tell your spouse and he or she adopts a tougher custody position!
One more thing: understand that there is a big difference between dating and cohabitation. Living with a boyfriend or girlfriend, sharing expenses and holding oneself out as such, could dramatically impact certain financial aspects of your divorce, notably alimony.
_______ (3) At the end of the day, only you can figure out what's right for you!
Lawyers can help you figure out a lot of things, including analyzing the legal consequences of your decisions and help you move on with your life, but we can't judge hearts or provide psychological counseling! Only you can decide when you're ready to pursue a healthy adult relationship after ending a marriage.
At DeMichele & DeMichele we regularly represent clients going through the trial and tribulations of transitioning to the next stage of our lives. Let us put our experience to work for you. Contact us online today for a confidential initial consultation. Help is also only a phone call away at (856) 546-1350. _______