I am in the middle of a divorce but have already fallen in love with somebody else. Is it legal to get engaged before the divorce is final? If so, will it affect the divorce outcome?
California family law defines a dating relationship as a “frequent, intimate association primarily characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement independent of financial considerations”. An engagement is a further expansion of this relationship with a promise for and expectation of a future marriage. There are no legal impediments to having a dating relationship or getting engaged to be married while your divorce is pending.
However, you must remember that even though you are separated from your spouse, and may be dating or even getting engaged, your marital status is not restored to that of a “single” person, and one who can remarry, until a Judgment terminating your marital status is entered by the court. You can request a Judgment terminating your marital status, separate from and prior to the entry of Judgment on the balance of the issues in your divorce. Once you meet the requirements to request the termination of your marital status, there are additional conditions which the court will impose upon you, prior to granting your request and restoring you to the status of a single person.
Getting engaged will not affect your divorce outcome per se, but may have an impact on certain issues, such as the custody of your children depending on your living arrangement and the nature of your fiancé’s relationship with them. Additionally, if you are the supported spouse (i.e. receiving spousal support), your cohabitation with your fiancé (or a person of the opposite sex), will create a rebuttable presumption of decreased need for spousal support.
Azita Avedissian is a partner with Phillips Lerner, A Law Corporation in Los Angeles. She can be reached at (310) 277-7117. View her firm’s Divorce Magazine profile here.