"Ask April" Author of the best selling, "Date Out Of Your League" AskApril.com
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I’m getting divorced, and am raring to get out there and start
dating. Are there any rules for me?
Signed, Almost Divorced
Almost pregnant is a state that does not exist. The same is true
with almost divorced. You are or you aren’t. Sound harsh? It may be,
but if you play by the rules, you’ll save yourself a lot of
heartache, stress on your kids – if you have them -- money and
wasted energy along the way. You may feel divorced, and you may not
have slept with your spouse in years – in fact, you may not have
lived in the same home with him or her for years – but if you’ve
filed a marriage license and you never filed a divorce decree with
the court system – chances are, you’re still married.
Acting divorced does not mean you’re actually divorced
Acting divorced is not the same thing as actually being divorced.
You and your spouse may have been dating other people and even
living with other people, but again – if you received a marriage
license when you first got married and you never filed a divorce
decree and got a piece of paper from the court, signed or stamped by
a judge that states you are legally divorced, guess what? You’re
Do I Need to Be Divorced To Date?
So, you’re probably thinking, “What does it matter if the court
system recognizes my divorce or not? It’s just a piece of paper
you’re talking about. I feel divorced and I live like I’m divorced –
therefore I’m divorced in my eyes.” That, my dear, is asking for
trouble. Even if both you and your spouse – notice I’m not calling
him or her your ex – think you’re divorced because you act divorced
as opposed to being legally divorced – at any time if one of the
other of you – or worse, a third party – decides to come after you
legally for a myriad of things from debt collection to child support
for a baby born outside your legal marriage, etc. – you’re still
So, how do you know you’re divorced? And more importantly, how do
you know the person you’re dating is divorced – see this issue goes
both ways. You may be perfectly divorced and you start dating
someone you think is great – only to get an angry call from his or
her spouse who doesn’t care that he or she is acting divorced –
because they’re not. And that means legal obligations to the legal
spouse. And legal obligations can translate into emotional obstacles
for getting into and staying in a new, healthy relationship.
However – all that said – you will not get arrested, fined or thrown
in jail for dating if you’re married – or dating someone who is
married whether you are or not. The law is not intended to regulate
morality – just money and children’s custody.
Dating During The Divorce Process
The divorce process varies from state to state. In some states, like
California, it is impossible to get divorced until exactly six
months to the day after one party files a document with the court
that claims a legal separation. Once you are legally separated, you
are NOT divorced.
Dating during separation is not always a bad idea because it can
help you decide whether divorce is really what you want. In fact,
some people decide to get divorced, file a legal separation document
with the court, move out of the home they shared with their spouse
and begin dating – only to realize that they made a mistake and want
to get back with their spouse and continue the marriage. This
separation period in California was originally called a “cooling off
period” intended to prevent rash decisions that lead to unnecessary
If you are legally separated and feel the urge to date , it’s
probably a good idea. You may realize you don’t want to get divorced
– or you may realize how much you really do.
However, this separation period can be complicated because while
you’re deciding one thing – your spouse from whom you’re separated
may be deciding the same thing as you – or something completely
different. While you’re dating and realizing you want your husband
and marriage back again, he may see you dating, become enraged that
you’ve moved on so easily, and start planning a bitter divorce
battle in which he plans to leave you nothing, financially, as
punishment for hurting his feelings by moving on so easily. Or, if
there are children involved, your spouse may decide to use the kids
to hurt you by demanding and fighting for full custody simply
because he or she is upset that there is another man in your life –
and your children’s lives.
But he was the one who
wanted the divorce -- why should he care if I'm dating?
Because he does.
One of the biggest surprises in a divorce is that even though one
person insists on getting divorced they may become furious if they
see you getting on with your life -- let alone happily.
If custody is an issue -- or could be one -- your ex may be mightily
threatened by having a step-dad or a step-mom in the picture, and
your date's character may get dragged through the mud in your
custody settlement that could become an ugly battle. If a judge
thinks that you are subjecting your child to bad influences (bad
driving, bad judgment, and all kind of other “bads” you never
dreamed of, but your exes lawyers get paid to dream up), you may
lose some custody of your children because of who you are dating.
Fair or not, it’s reality.
Are all divorces such a horror show?
No. Divorces are all different. Some divorces are amicable and
lawyer-less. Some are protracted and go to trial. Some result in
life-long venom, but others result in happy separations and blended
families that all get along. But regardless, here are some things to
consider when dating between your separation and your divorce:
Just because you are not living together and have threatened each
other with divorce does not mean you are divorced or even legally
separated. Know the difference. A legal separation is noted by a
legal document. In states like California, you cannot get divorced
until six months after the date of a legal separation. The reason
that these dates are important is because there is not usually a
legal financial or custody settlement until a divorce is finalized
-- and even after a divorce is finalized there can still be an
outstanding financial or custody settlement.
Who cares? You should. Why? Because exes get vindictive and angry if
they see you dating -- or if you see them dating. And this
vindictiveness can show up in punitive financial settlements or
custody settlements that are not in anyone's best interest, but make
the aggressor feel like he or she is punishing the other ex for
dating by taking custody or money away.
Overall, keeping your dating during a divorce process on the down
low is prudent for best results.
Ready for even more
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April.com There, you'll find informative articles, expert
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to also check out my workshops, designed to help you find you real