Morgan Law Image Woman Handing Over Keys Can I date during divorce

A divorce attorney’s insights on how dating can impact your pending divorce.

• Can you date during divorce in Florida?
• Is it unlawful to date while going through a divorce in Florida?

I am Andrea Morgan, a divorce attorney here in Orlando, Florida. I am frequently asked by my clients whether they are allowed to date while their divorce is pending.

There is nothing in the law that says you cannot date during divorce.  But there are some very real reasons why you should not, and at a minimum take heed of some serious pre-cautionary measures if you do.

If you are currently in divorce proceedings and are dating, you fall into one of three categories:

 

  1. you are dating a person, and that person is the reason you are getting divorced;
  2. you were not actively looking to meet a new someone special, but you did, and now you are dating him or her; or
  3. you are currently actively looking for, and found, a person or people to date.

Let’s take a look at each scenario, because each has different potential impact on you as you await your final divorce decree.

The person you are dating is the reason you are divorcing your spouse:

If this is your situation, your spouse likely knows they are being left for another person.  If they know this much, then they also typically know the identity of this person.

Thus, the cat is already out of the bag.

In this instance, the best thing to keep in mind are two words: damage control.

It is crucial that you keep your new relationship on the down-low.  How low?  As far down-low as you can go.  Down-low as in underground. You must also require that your new BF or GF promises to follow suit.

What do I mean by down-low?  I mean way more than just keeping it quiet.  I mean put it in a locked vault, throw away the key, and bury it six feet under.  

Stay off social media:

Deleting your social media accounts is the best way to ensure you do not wind up being cross-examined about embarrassing screen shots submitted into evidence at your divorce trial.

If you cannot do this temporarily for some reason, do not post pictures of you and your new love interest on any social media.  Do not even be FB friends or follow each other on social media.

Do not go out in public anywhere as a couple.  I don’t care if it’s a drive-in movie theater at night.  Trust me, you will be seen by someone, who will in turn tell other some ones, about seeing you two.

Do not bring your children around the new person at all, even if you have already introduced them.  Do not discuss the new person or the relationship with anyone, unless it’s your lawyer, your therapist, or clergy (where you have the absolute right to privileged communications that cannot be repeated).

Why, you may ask, does it matter when the cat is already out of the bag? 

 

My answer:  Because your mission right now is damage-control.  If you do not exercise damage-control, it can and will come back to haunt you like the black plague in so many ways.

Even though Florida is a no-fault divorce state (meaning you do not have to have a reason to divorce aside from alleging, in general, “irreconcilable differences”), when issues such as alimony and property division come up, you still need to be as squeaky-clean as possible.

Having a “consort” (that’s the term you can expect to hear) with whom you flaunt on social media or around your spouse and children will not put you in the best light, to say the least.

Your spouse is within his or her rights to allege that you have squandered marital assets on your new person, whether it’s true or not.  This can adversely affect your rights regarding alimony and property division.  It can also affect your time-sharing rights with your children.

Keep in mind that the judge on your case is a human being.  If he or she gets the impression you are of questionable or callous character, this impression can adversely color the court’s rulings against you.

Another reason to go underground with your new relationship during your divorce is more subtle, but just as deadly.

No doubt your spouse is suffering from wounded pride and humiliation already.  To go transparent with your new relationship while your divorce is pending will only serve to add insult to injury.

Hell hath no fury like a spouse scorned.

The last thing you want is your spouse to set on a course for revenge and retribution during your divorce proceedings.  A scorned spouse will take insupportable positions against you out of sheer loathing for you.  Which will in turn prolong your divorce case, run up your legal bill to the rafters, and in general make you wish you had never been born.

Take the high road, be respectful, and temporarily bury your new relationship underground until your divorce is over.

Besides, watching Netflix on the couch with popcorn is way cheaper than a night out on the town (for more reasons than one).

You unexpectedly met a person during your divorce who you are dating:

Hey, I am no stranger to the fact that love happens.  Sometimes out of nowhere and sometimes when we least expect.  Like after your divorce case is filed but before it is finished.

As I have said, there is nothing on the books that says you cannot date during your divorce.  However, there is the very real possibility your dating could turn a run-of-the-mill case into a super nasty blood bath.

Will finding out you have a new love interest before you are divorced unnecessarily upset and anger your soon-to-be ex, your children, or both?  You betcha.  Can you expect to see the ramifications of this in your divorce case?  Bingo.  Therefore:

All of the rules of going underground and abstaining from social media cited above apply to you.  Use them.

You are actively trolling dating apps and hang-outs looking for dates during your divorce:

No judgment from me, pinky swear.  We are all human and it is natural to desire romantic attention, particularly when you feel starved for it.  Which is often the case if you have been in a loveless marriage for a length of time.

BUT if this is where you’re at, I want you to take a long and careful look at your motivations.

I want you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are my motivations for dating before I am divorced largely emotional, or physical?
  • Are they based on a need for fulfilment?
  • Or revenge?
  • Am I looking for validation?
  •  Am I terrified of being alone?

I am going to give you some homework here that will help.   

Once you have isolated your primary motivations for why you want to date while you are in divorce proceedings, write them down.  Then beside each, write down the reasons you believe this is your motivation.

Be entirely honest and place no negative judgments on yourself while you are writing.  Set your written thoughts aside for at least 24 hours so you can process them internally.

Then, the next time you get the urge to let your fingers do the talking on your dating apps, or before you strategize your next outing to local singles’ haunts, ask yourself this one question:

What obstacles do I have to overcome to successfully and healthfully re-enter the dating arena?

Before you can successfully and healthfully embark on the dating scene, you must first understand and arrive at your “social price.”  This is a process, not an algorithm.

According to Dr. David Anderson, Ph.D. in his recent article for Psychology Today, the more you have to offer in a relationship, the more you can expect in return, thus increasing your social price. [1]

Factors that determine your social price include desirable traits you possess that you could bring to a relationship.  Examples of these desirable traits are inner strength, stability, sanity, confidence, and centeredness.

Call me crazy, but I have yet to see any of these traits exude from a person in the midst of a divorce.  Even if it’s the nicest of people and of divorces.

Dr. Anderson also theorizes that those who appear insecure and desperate, obsessively text or call a love interest, or engage in sexual activity too soon, send signals that they hold inferior traits, thus lowering their social price.

The law of attraction dictates that the lower your social price, the lower the quality of a romantic partner you will attract.  In other words, you are likely about to jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

The last thing you need is to hook up with a schmoe while you are in the process of divorcing a schmoe.

At its core, low-balling your social price is a by-product of low self-esteem and other negative self-emotions, including fear. “Fear absolutely devastates some people,” says clinical psychologist Michael S. Broder, Ph.D., author of The Art of Living Single. [2]

“It can be the fear of being hurt, rejected or involved, and it can stem from a history of having been hurt or of traumatic relationships.” 

I am going to add the fear of being alone to Dr. Broder’s list.

Dr. Broder cautions against rebound hook-ups or getting involved in another relationship too soon.  He theorizes that this type of desperation usually stems from sadness, guilt, anger, or anxiety about being alone.

“You get this feeling that you’re in the worst possible situation in your life,” Broder explains. “Then you may do what you [will] later consider desperate: a one-night stand, calling the ex, or ignoring intuitive warnings and jumping into a bad relationship you would never choose if you weren’t feeling reckless.”

If you are feeling a compulsion to date around or find a new mate before your divorce is final, it may adjust your attitude to consider the following:

  • How many good traits would I be able to bring into a new relationship while I am in the process of winding down my old one?
  • What impact might my current situation have on a new dating partner?
  • Do I really want to drag an unwitting newcomer into my unfinished drama?
  • Can I truly spare the time dating new people while simultaneously focusing on my exit from my existing relationship?
  • Am I mentally in a position to welcome someone new into my life?
  • Is dating a real priority while I am in the middle of legal proceedings which will have lasting consequences?
Fortunately, it is possible to avoid all of these emotional pitfalls:

 

Wait to date. That is my best advice.

Here’s what will ease the transition, as well as throttle down the itch to date when you just plain old should not be dating.

These are trustworthy considerations, drawn from my personal experience in dating after divorce, the experiences of my clients in dating after divorce, and psychology authorities such as Drs. Anderson and Broder about dating after divorce:

  1. Rely on Your Support Group, Old and New

It’s natural to turn to old friends and family for support. They know and care about you, typically have your best interests in mind, and know how to hear you during your darkest moments.

New friends can also help you adjust to your new life and help create new memories, so it is equally important to cultivate some new blood into your inner circle.

Old or new, friendship is a vital ingredient in the recovery and stabilization process, so consider these folks your new tribe.

 

  1. Assess Your Self-Worth

People with low self-esteem tend to create relationships with others who evaluate them negatively, suggests a study by William B. Swann Jr., Ph.D., a University of Texas psychology professor. If you’re suffering from a negative self-image, it’s vital you take steps to create a positive, healthy self-concept.[3]

Begin by making a list of your positive qualities, then hang it in your home where you’ll see it regularly, suggests Bruce Fisher, Ed.D., Robert Alberti, Ph.D., and Virginia M. Satir, M.A., in their book Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends.[4]

Sharing your list with your support group and asking for honest feedback will help you to work on clearing up any discrepancies between your self-image and the real you.

Make a list of new beliefs and affirmations that you’d like to incorporate into your thinking system. Read aloud these new self-concepts often, regardless of how you’re feeling, to help solidify them in your mind.

 

  1. Put on Your “Badass” Hat:

People who feel victimized after a breakup may do well to develop a bold, or even defiant, attitude. Psychologists at the University of Washington and Canada’s University of Waterloo recently found that feelings of resignation and sadness make people with low self-esteem less motivated to improve their mood.

“When you feel defiant you become excited, confident, and ready to take action,” says Broder. “You take care of yourself, making it pretty clear that you are not going to be ruined by divorce. It’s a very healthy thing to do.”

 

  1. Plan Activities

Consider your post-relationship time as an opportunity to do the things you could not do while you were with your ex. Create a list of activities you would enjoy doing with a perfect partner, then give the list a second look.

“Rarely do people have more than three or four things on their list that they cannot do if they’re not in a relationship,” says Broder. “Be active, don’t feel like your whole life is on hold.”

 

  1. Curb Unhealthy Cravings

When we are in emotional pain, our feelings often don’t coincide with our intellect, and instead manifest themselves as cravings that can prove unhealthy and self-destructive. Cravings usually plague people who have zero tolerance for a single lifestyle and want to jump into a new relationship as soon as they breakup from their old one.

Also susceptible are individuals with low self-evaluation who are convinced they can’t make it alone. Fortunately, while such cravings may feel overwhelming and unavoidable, Broder asserts that they don’t have to be.

To short-circuit cravings, Broder suggests doing something that actively breaks the pattern and makes you approach the situation in a healthier way. Call someone in your support group, share your unwanted tendencies and ask that he or she invite you out when you fall into bad habits.

And consider keeping a journal of the things that successfully distract you from your urges, such as renting a funny movie or going for a long walk, that you can turn to the next time cravings crop up.

 

  1. Prepare for Pitfalls

Holidays, anniversaries and birthdays are hard to navigate because they are loaded with expectations and memories.  During a separation or divorce, social configurations change, making feelings of loss and loneliness more intense.

Perfectionists tend to struggle most during the holidays, according to Broder. High expectations lead them to dwell on favorite memories of their past and compare them with current situations.

According to Sally Karioth, Ph.D., R.N., an associate nursing professor at Florida State University and an expert on stress, grief, and trauma, points to advance planning as the key to reducing stress and meeting new people. [5]

Don’t be afraid to ask for help organizing new activities, and break tasks into smaller chores to fend off feelings of being overwhelmed. Broder also suggests avoiding holiday comparisons and focusing instead on the enjoyable aspects of current and future ones.

“You’ll get through [them], and then you won’t fear [them] anymore,” says Broder. “It may not be the best of your life, but it may not be the horror you thought it would be.”

Psychologists often cite the magical “one-year” period as a hallmark consideration of when it is safe to start dating again after a divorce.  I think a year is a good benchmark.  I also believe personal fluidity and trusting your inner guidance on this point is a better compass.

You and you alone will know when you no longer feel wounded, and are healthy and healed enough to get back out there.

I absolutely love these buoyant insights about dating after your divorce from psychotherapist Nina Sidell, M.A., https://psychcentral.com/blog/divorce-the-practice-of-dating/.[6]

Print these out and tape them on your mirror so you can remind yourself daily:

  • Go at your own pace. You know when you are ready to date.
  • Trust your instincts and how you feel when in the company of someone new.
  • Respect your personal limits and only agree to what you are comfortable with.
  • Be yourself, honestly and unapologetically.
  • Notice your patterns and improve upon them.
  • Learn from past mistakes. Allow your intuition and wisdom to guide you.
  • Be willing to be open and take safe risks in order to try new things.
  • Have fun with the process of dating. It’s a real adventure!
  • Educate yourself on nonverbal language, active listening, and reading between the lines for in-person and online interactions.
  • Trust your inner guidance system when sharing yourself or your story.
  • Learn from each person you meet, date, or relate to. See what they do, more than say.
  • Observe role models who have happy, healthy relationships: What do they do?
  • Remember that dating is the same today as it was when you previously dated.
  • Enjoy going to new places and learning about new people, their differences and similarities.
  • Keep your heart and mind open.

Dating During Divorce Conclusion:

My best advice is you should not date while your divorce is pending.  If it can be avoided, avoid it.

If it cannot be avoided, know unequivocally that your dating can and will be used against you in a court of law.  For this reason, use preventative measures.

If you are leaving your spouse for another person, remember that your key mission is damage-control.  In other words, bury the new relationship and go underground until your divorce is final.

If you meet someone after your divorce is started but before it’s finished, your key mission is to not let that new person or new relationship come to light during your divorce.  This will only serve to inflame your spouse and dirty-up your case.

My mom said it best:  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Please feel free to reach out to Andrea Morgan if you have questions about dating during divorce. Email Andrea Morgan at andrea@morgandivorcelaw.com or call 407.374.2983

Citations:

[1]David Anderson Ph.D., and Rosemary Clandos, published January 1, 2003 – last reviewed on June 9, 2016, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200301/dating-after-divorce.

[2]Michael S. Broder, Ph.D., author of The Art of Living Single.

[3]William B. Swann Jr., Ph.D., University of Texas, Professor of Psychology.

[4]Bruce Fisher, Ed.D., Robert Alberti, Ph.D., and Virginia M. Satir, M.A., authors of Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends.

[5]Sally Karioth, Ph.D., R.N., associate nursing professor at Florida State University.

[6]Nina Sidell, M.A., https://psychcentral.com/blog/divorce-the-practice-of-dating/