Should you date before your divorce is finalized?

Divorce has a reputation for being a drawn-out, contentious process. In addition to the time it takes to reach a settlement, North Carolina couples must live separately for 12 months before their divorce becomes final. When you’re ready to move on to the next chapter of your life with someone new, waiting for your divorce to finalize can feel like an eternity. Is it acceptable to start dating again before your divorce is official?

Unfortunately, even if you feel you are ready to move on, dating while going through a divorce can have severe ramifications on its outcome and hurt you both legally and financially. Here are a few reasons why it’s unwise to date before your divorce is final:

It could prolong the divorce process

Emotions are already running high during the divorce process. Even if your ex initiated the divorce or had an extra-marital affair themselves, starting a new relationship before your divorce is final will likely only escalate conflict and prolong the time it takes for you to settle. High conflict divorces can go on for years and take a significant toll on your children’s well-being.

It could affect spousal support

In the eyes of the law in North Carolina, you are legally married to your spouse until you live apart for one year and a judge officially divorces you. If you begin seeing someone romantically before the divorce is final, the courts may view your new relationship as adultery.

While adultery is not grounds for divorce in North Carolina, the court will consider marital misconduct like adultery when awarding spousal support. Your infidelity could affect your ability to receive alimony from your ex or the amount you receive.

It could jeopardize your parenting time

If you share kids with your ex, you’ll have to negotiate your new custody arrangement with your ex and your mediator or attorneys. It’s not uncommon for one spouse to use the other’s new relationship against them when establishing parenting schedules. They may argue that your new relationship will interfere with your parenting abilities or that you chose your new partner over your family.

Waiting to begin a new relationship until the dust from divorce settles can have legal and personal benefits. Divorce is a complicated process, but you can avoid making it more challenging for everyone by waiting until everything is official before dating again.