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Triangle Smart Divorce

Triangle Smart Divorce

Dating After Divorce Episode 2

Chapter 2: Dating During Separation

Attorney Jenny Bradley

Should You Worry About How Dating Will Affect Your Divorce Case?


Many clients come to us assuming they can start dating the day they separate. I tell these clients, while technically it’s not illegal, unless you have no children, no assets, and no alimony claims, you definitely need to consider how dating will affect your divorce case. In my opinion, if a lawyer tells you dating will not affect the outcome of your case, that lawyer may not understand the emotional aspects and the lack of rationality that can exist during divorce.

There are two facets to every divorce: what the law says and what the spouses going through the divorce think and feel. Obviously, feelings and thoughts are subjective, but, at least in North Carolina, the law is very subjective as well. That surprises a lot of people, they assume the law is the law and it’s not up for interpretation. That’s just not true. For example, for custody, the test is “best interests,” for alimony, it is a “fair and equitable amount,” for property division, it is an “equitable division.” Let’s dismiss the notion right away that much of anything about divorce is rational or logical. And that’s why dating before (or sometimes even after) your divorce is finalized and all your legal issues are resolved can throw a wrench in the whole thing.

Here are some pitfalls to avoid while considering or actively dating which can lead to unintended consequences in your divorce, whether you are headed to Court or trying to resolve things amicably:

    1. Dividing your focus between developing a new relationship and resolving your divorce. A divorce is a highly stressful time. Even if you have the emotional detachment of Spock, the uncertainty, the change, and demands on your time are huge stressors. As they say, “You can’t ride two horses with one ass.” Do yourself a favor. Don’t date until everything is finished and the ink is dry on your divorce papers. Focus on yourself. Get clear of the clouded emotions and stress surrounding divorce before turning your focus to new relationships.

    2. Caring more about your dating life than your children. Or giving off that impression by not making being a parent a priority over dating. For instance, perhaps your dating life exposes them to harm, perhaps you don’t attend their special activities to go on dates, perhaps you frequently give up your custodial time to maximum time with your dating partner, or perhaps you introduce them too quickly to your dating partners, causing more uncertainty and confusion for them as they are mourning the loss of having a two-parent household. A Court could easily view your conduct as not being consistent with your children’s best interests and could limit your time with them. And, if you are trying to settle custody without going to Court, your spouse is unlikely to want to share additional custodial time with you if they feel you are neglecting your child in favor of your dating life.

    3. Not being completely “done” with your spouse. If you find  yourself still getting together with your ex, maybe even still having sex, do not start dating other people. Unless you have a very non-traditional relationship, your spouse will be upset that you are playing the field while claiming you are “working” on the marriage. These feelings of hurt and confusion can unduly complicate any settlement you had hoped for. Even more so if your spouse finds out that you are hiding the fact that you are seeing other people. And if you expose your spouse to a STD or become pregnant by someone else, hell hath no fury as your spouse if they thought you were working toward reconciliation.

    4. Dating for the wrong reasons. If you are dating to avoid putting in the work to heal from divorce, that can unintentionally prolong the divorce settlement process. It may sound weird, but it makes sense. If you haven’t healed, perhaps you aren’t ready to let go and move through the grieving process. If that’s the case, you are likely to try to subconsciously hold on to the relationship to spare yourself pain, which drags out the process and, in most cases, makes it more painful. By dating, you think you have moved on, but if you aren’t ready, you are just masking the pain and avoiding the healing that has to occur for you to have a new, healthy, and positive relationship. Delays in divorce equals additional legal costs, additional time involvement from you, and, frequently, a less favorable result. I highly recommend therapy while going through the divorce process, for many reasons, but especially for preparing yourself for a new relationship. It will get you in the best spot you can be to start a relationship AFTER your divorce is finalized.

    5. Allowing your new partner to be overly involved in your divorce. Your divorce is your divorce. That’s it. It isn’t your partner’s divorce. It isn’t your friend’s divorce. It isn’t your parent’s divorce. Do not allow others to become overly involved in your divorce. I have seen way too many new partners overstep their boundaries by texting, calling, or emailing the soon-to-be ex-spouse and saying inappropriate things, making threats, or downright taunting them. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that’s just stupid, but some people just can’t help themselves. A slightly gentler, but equally harmful, tactic of the new partner is to come to the mediation or meetings with your lawyer and run the show. Don’t let this happen. Stand your ground. The fifth wheel never improves a negotiation, especially if it is someone your spouse blames for the break-up of your marriage. And the fifth wheel making faces in the courtroom is never good. Keep them out of the courtroom unless they have been subpoenaed there.

    6. Spending marital money on dates or online scams. In many states, including North Carolina, your estate is valued as of the date of separation. This means that, unless there is a court order freezing your accounts, you can spend money as you wish after separation, but ultimately those assets will be divided with date of separation values. So, if you took all the funds from a marital account and plunked it down on a European vacation with your new love interest, you will have to pay your spouse’s share of the funds back. At least in that scenario, you had fun on the trip. What if you were scammed online? You spent the money, have nothing to show for it, and have to pay back your spouse. Don’t make mistakes, especially with your money, for short-term gains which, in the end, cause long-term suffering.

    7. Dating someone your spouse hates. This one seems obvious, yet, clients ask all the time, “Who cares what they think? I’m not with them anymore.” Well, you are going to care if your spouse turns your children against your partner, if your family picks your soon-to-be ex over your new love interest, if you can’t attend your child’s graduation with your partner because your ex will make a scene and adversely affect your child, or if your spouse subpoenas, deposes, or sues your new partner and involves them in your legal case. A bitter ex can come up with many creative ways to make your life miserable if they want to. Don’t give them reason to want to.

    8. Lying on social media. Nothing is private or secret once you post it on the internet. Even if your spouse isn’t one of your “friends” or if you have them blocked, all it takes is someone you know snapping a screenshot of your profile and sharing it with them. We’ve seen people’s social media lies used to discredit them in trial. You may wonder how is that relevant. Here’s the deal.

      Opposing counsel asks you what seems like an innocent question, “Do you have several vehicles?”

      You say, “No, I just have one.”

      Opposing counsel says, “Are you sure?” You say, “Yes, I’m sure.”

      Opposing counsel approaches you with your Instagram post where you are posing in front of a fleet of vehicles and where you claim, “Ladies, let me take you for a ride in one of my classic cars. No innuendo intended. (Or was it?)”

      You say, “That’s just a joke. I only have one car. An old Mustang.”

      Opposing counsel then asks, “Do you regularly lie and boast when trying to impress someone? Were you doing that earlier with your testimony about your house? How do we know you weren’t lying to the Judge since you won’t let my client see the house and refused to provide pictures?”

      The seed has been planted and the Judge might think that you exaggerate or make up facts for your benefit. The Judge wonders if you indeed have adequate housing for the four kids. Also, the Judge can’t figure out how you fit four young kids with car seats and boosters in one classic car. Or maybe the Judge hasn’t been affected at all by this line of questioning, but you will always wonder if they were if you don’t get the result you hoped for. Control the narrative by being honest online.

    9. Sharing too much information on social media. I know I just said control the narrative by being honest online, but I’m not talking about lying now. I’m talking about posting too much of the truth–the truth you and your lawyer don’t want the other side to know. Such as what vacations you take and who was with you. The amount of alcohol you consume. How many times someone else has watched the kids. Participating in far left or right extremist groups. Using illegal drugs. Driving carelessly and recklessly. How many times a month you check in to specific locations, including the spa and salon. On and on and on. Again, nothing is private once it hits social media. Any perceived risky or dangerous behavior could be used against you in a custody battle. In child support and alimony cases, your spending and income are at issue, and the reasonableness of your spending will be questioned.

    10. Moving in with your new partner. This is a bad idea if your divorce isn’t finalized because “moving on too fast” can cause increased tension and opposition in your negotiations if your spouse has not moved on as quickly as you. Another reason this is a bad idea is cohabitation’s effect on support cases. Because you are living with someone who is contributing to the household bills, your needs have dropped by a presumptive half. So, either you have more money to pay support, or you need less money for support. And in some states, cohabitation completely eliminates spousal support. Additionally, living with someone else could complicate your custody case.

    11. Not asking your divorce lawyer before you start dating. I’ve outlined ten ways dating before all your legal issues are resolved can screw up your divorce case. Unfortunately, all of these have happened to clients who didn’t seek my advice BEFORE they jumped back in the dating pool. And now, we have to do damage control. Do yourself a favor and talk to your lawyer before you take the plunge. They will have even more cautionary tales than I have shared in this chapter. Being well informed before you make a decision almost always gives you better results than being reactionary. And, yes, some clients still made these mistakes after consulting with me because they are human and aren’t Spock, but the impact was not as bad because we were ready to minimize the collateral damage.

I get it. Divorce can be lonely. We are social creatures by nature and long for connection. Having a person to lean on and find support can often help ease divorce’s loneliness. But divorce is a process with many stages. Some of you will go through them quickly and some slowly. Some will linearly go through them, and some will look like Billy’s walks in the cartoon Family Circus. No matter how you go through the process, it’s a process that takes time, energy, and decision-making. It can be exhausting.

My best advice for you is don’t complicate it and put more stress on yourself by trying to develop and grow new romantic relationships until your divorce is resolved. Instead, use this time to focus on your case and focus on yourself. That could mean therapy (I highly recommend this option) or that could be just spending time understanding this new version of yourself. No matter the way you do it, focusing on yourself is only going to improve your prospects when your case is actually finalized and you are ready to jump into the dating pool.

Dating During Separation: Are you ready?

Download our free resource with 10 tips to help you know if you are ready to start dating.

Have questions? Contact us!

Dr. Katrina Kuzyszyn-Jones

In this chapter, Dr. Katrina Kuzyszyn-Jones offers guidance to divorcees experiencing the aftermath of separation or divorce. She explains the importance of going through the grieving process and the value of self-reflection, self-growth, forgiveness, and compassion. By taking the time to reflect on your emotions and needs, you can better understand what you’re looking for in a partner and when you’re truly ready to pursue a new relationship. Dr. Kuzyszyn-Jones is a national forensic and clinical psychology expert who has counseled thousands of families going through separation and divorce. Her purpose is to help you find your purpose.

Lee Hayward

How you think about yourself and present yourself to others has a significant impact on the results you get in life, personally and professionally. In this chapter, Lee Heyward gives you practical advice on making a good first impression, both in person and on dating apps. Anyone looking to rediscover their authentic selves and rebuild their confidence needs to read this chapter! Lee Heyward is a highly sought-after image and brand consultant who helps business owners look and feel great, which in turn grows their businesses exponentially.

Mackenzie Gokey

This chapter provides a beginner’s guide to online dating for those who are separated or divorced and may not have used dating apps before or have not used them in a long time. Mackenzie Gokey summarizes six popular apps and offers tips on how to create a profile, get a great picture, and stay safe. She wants to take away the mystery behind dating apps and provide valuable tools and tips to make online dating a more enjoyable experience! Mackenzie Gokey is an accomplished marketing professional who has assisted company growth with her keen eye on positioning and “words that sell,” which she’s translated into the augmentation and improvement of many online dating profiles throughout the past ten years.

Dr. Lori Thomas

In this chapter, Dr. Lori Thomas offers unique insight into how children are positively and negatively affected when their parents begin dating after divorce. She provides the tools and support needed to successfully integrate dating into your life as a parent, including tips for how and when to introduce dating partners to your children. Dr. Thomas is a frequently called-upon expert in clinical psychology who has worked with hundreds of children and teenagers adjusting to their parents’ divorces. 

Attoney Jenny Bradley

Relationships often fail because people do not understand their partner’s basic innate drives. Jenny Bradley explains how the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment, which has been used by businesses for over 60 years to understand employees’ hardwiring and predict their behavior, can also be used in the dating world to become more aware of what kind of partner would be a good match for you. By understanding one’s own drives and assessing compatibility more accurately, people can identify areas for improvement in their relationships and improve compatibility in future relationships. If you’re looking for a fresh start in your love life, this could be the key to finding a more compatible and fulfilling relationship. Jenny co-authored this chapter with Barry Shulman. Barry is a consultant, career coach, trusted advisor, and expert in the Predictive Index. He’s helped companies and individuals be more self-aware, coachable, and effective for over 30 years.