After that final divorce decree is signed and filed, both parties have the closure they need to move on with their lives. Some people want to start dating right away, some don’t want to date at all, and some aren’t sure when the time is right. All of these are valid choices, but if you and your ex-spouse have children together, you should take a few things into consideration. After all, the well-being of your child is everyone’s first priority, and effective co-parenting helps make that happen.
We’ve put together some tips and advice for newly divorced parents considering dating again.
Can I date before my divorce is final?
Well, it’s not against the law, but we really don’t encourage it. Here’s why. Dating while you’re legally separated or in the process of divorce isn’t illegal. However, in Tennessee, this can be interpreted by some as marital misconduct. This means your ex-spouse could accuse you of starting this dating relationship while you and your spouse were still married, and use that as grounds for divorce. And, in turn, those grounds could affect the court’s decisions on things like alimony or division of property.
Keep in mind your child’s best interests
Whether you and your ex made your child custody agreement together, or if the court decided it for you, you did so with your child’s best priorities in mind. So, even if you don’t agree with him/her, the parent with custody has the right to decide who can hang around your kid. (Of course, this doesn’t count in cases where your child is in danger.) You have to assume your co-parent is acting with your child’s best interests in mind, and you should do so as well when and if you decide to date.
Without getting deep into romantic advice, make sure you really know someone and their character before introducing them to your kids, and think about how it might affect your child if you broke up.
Consider an agreement
We’ve seen clients make agreements in their divorce settlements about dating – really! Some couples agree not to introduce their kids to any significant others until a certain period has passed since the divorce. This could be six months, a year, whatever time they agree on. The goal of this type of agreement is not to cause children any further disruption while they settle into their lives post-divorce. This kind of solution isn’t for everyone, but it works for some.
Don’t forget about alimony and child support
When you made your divorce agreement, your terms regarding alimony and child support were determined based on both of your expenses when you split up. If one of you decides to move in with a new partner, or have a new partner move in with you, your ex-spouse may file for a modification of order to reduce or even halt financial support.
You might be ready, but are your kids?
Remember, you may feel you’re ready to start dating again, but are your kids? Often, children need time to emotionally and physically adjust to a divorce and new living situation. The thought of a parent in a new romantic relationship can be overwhelming and bring up a lot of new feelings. Your kids may seem well-adjusted and happy, but many families can benefit from therapy to ensure everyone’s on the same page regarding all the changes within the family – including dating.
The experienced and compassionate lawyers at LaFevor & Slaughter can help answer all your questions about the divorce process. To set up an appointment with one of our family law attorneys, call our office at (865) 637-6258 or use our contact form to schedule a consultation.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.
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