During a divorce, the general advice from friends and experts is to avoid dating, especially if you have children. It can present a distraction from proceedings, and in some cases, can actually wind up affecting the asset distribution of your marital estate or your ability to receive spousal support. Even after your divorce is final, it is a good idea to tread carefully in terms of getting back on the proverbial horse.
Dating During Can Be Messy
There is no legal prohibition of dating during divorce proceedings. However, it is frowned upon, especially if there are children involved, because it can provoke strong feelings, especially if you are the one who instituted proceedings. To a hurting ex-spouse, dating so soon can seem like flaunting a new relationship in their face, and they may look to make you pay for it, so to speak. It is not uncommon to hear of soon-to-be ex-husbands and ex-wives deliberately drawing out proceedings or complicating asset division solely to inconvenience their spouse, even if it means they might pay more in attorney’s fees.
Dating while going through divorce proceedings can also be frightening and intimidating to your children. In some cases, it may adversely affect the issue of parenting time. Illinois courts will always rule in the best interests of the child with regard to apportioning parenting time. Among the factors that the court will consider in determining your child’s best interest is the company that each parent keeps. The interaction between the child and “any other person who may significantly impact the child’s best interests” may affect the court’s decision if the problems with a new boyfriend or girlfriend are severe enough.
Spousal Support and Cohabitation Issues
One very tangible way that dating during your divorce proceedings can harm your future is if you are already at the point where you are living together—which occurs fairly regularly when one spouse has had an affair. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that if either party remarries or “cohabits with another person on a resident, continuing, conjugal basis,” spousal support will be discontinued. If you are already planning to cohabit with someone at the time of your divorce, and the court finds out, you may receive no support at all. You may also have your portion of your marital assets reduced to reflect this new reality.
The key phrase in defining cohabitation is “resident, continuing, conjugal.” Under Illinois law, a cohabiting relationship does not necessarily need to be sexual; rather, it must be a relationship in which decisions are made and which items are shared as a couple. For example, if two people share a bank account, take holiday trips together, or have provided for each other in wills or retirement accounts, they are likely to be found as cohabiting as defined in the law. If your relationship is deemed to be resident, continuing, and conjugal, you will not receive spousal support of any kind, because you are presumed to have the other person’s income to rely upon as well as your own.
Have Questions About Dating During Divorce?
Despite the potential pitfalls, some people do choose to date while their divorce is pending. Regardless of which path you decide to take, consulting an attorney is generally a good idea beforehand. Our dedicated DuPage County divorce lawyers are ready, willing and able to help answer your questions. Call us today to set up an initial appointment.