“If you date as soon as you’re separated, will it legally affect the outcome of your divorce in any way?”
Since we have “no fault” divorce in Texas, many people feel there can’t be any harm in “moving on” with their lives once they are separated and the marriage is, in effect, over. Although you may be anxious to find Mr. or Ms. Right, since you are in the process of divorcing Mr. or Mrs. Wrong, it’s probably better to wait. In the final analysis, the fact that you dated during separation may not have a huge impact on you legally. However, my advice is: don’t date until after the divorce is final.
Although divorce can be granted on the grounds of “no fault,” there is the option of obtaining a divorce based on fault grounds such as adultery, which can result in a disproportionate division of the estate. You may want to argue that if the new relationship does not begin until after separation, how could it be the cause of the divorce? However, the technical truth is that your community estate continues, and you are legally married until the judge renders you divorced, no matter how long you are separated.
There is an odd phenomenon in divorces. Even though your spouse may not want you, he or she is capable of becoming jealous and vengeful when someone else does. If your spouse has ever accused you of being unfaithful before separation, your dating after separation will “prove” to your spouse that he or she was right all along. You and the people you date may be subject to answering discovery with detailed questions, depositions, and other invasive maneuvers. If there were any issues regarding trust between you and your spouse before the separation, then dating others during separation will exacerbate those fears and anxieties and can result in unwanted and unnecessary delay and expense in your divorce.
If you have children, I would discourage any dating even more strongly. No matter how careful you are to conceal any relationship from your kids, if they find out (and they often do), the future relationship they will have with this new person is seriously jeopardized. What kind of message are you sending to your children if you are seeing someone else before your divorce? What you do and how you behave is a role model for your children.
The statistics for the success of rebound relationships are dismal, so if you have any hope that this new person is perfect for you, then give it a chance and wait.
The divorce process and your decision-making responsibility are compromised if there is someone else in the picture. You need to stay focused on resolving the divorce matter before moving on to the next relationship.
Susan Myres practices family law in Houston with Myres, Dale & Associates. She has been Board Certified in family law since 1988 and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She is active in family-law associations and currently the president of the Burta Rhoads Raborn Family Law Inn of Court.