Dating While Getting Divorced or Separated
April 22, 2019
BY: Megan E. Hodes
Stop saying you are divorced when you aren’t…. and even more helpful tips on navigating the dating scene after you have been married.
When getting married, you probably never thought that you would have to worry about how to meet people and how to date ever again. Regardless of how long it has been, getting back into the dating world can be scary and overwhelming. Here are a few major guidelines to follow when it comes to trying to find your next significant other.
Honesty is always the best policy
“Divorced” – Regardless of how amicable you are with your soon-to-be ex, the divorce process can be lengthy. Even simple, amicable divorces usually take at least six months from start to finish. The divorce process starts with the filing of the Complaint for Divorce. Your divorce has not even started until this occurs, which means that people should not state “I am divorced,” when the process has not even begun. Furthermore, your divorce is not finished until you go to Court and a Judgment of Divorce is entered. When dating you are most likely going to encounter someone who is divorced or, at the very least, knows someone who has been divorced. Therefore, in order to make the best first impression do not say “I am divorced,” until you actually are (i.e. The Judgement of Divorce is entered). The follow-up questions to someone saying they are divorced (i.e. “How long have you been divorced?) are a lot harder to answer when you started the conversation with a misrepresentation.
“Single” – As stated above, your divorce is not finished until the Judgment of Divorce has been entered. Therefore, legally wise you are not technically single until that occurs. Now, I acknowledge that on most dating websites and applications, there is no “in the process of divorce,” designation, but if you are going to make the representation that you are single, when you technically aren’t, be forewarned that you may face some backlash either from potential new significant others or your legally current one.
“Separated” – People don’t realize that the term “separated” could be construed in many different ways. In the state of New Jersey, there is technically no legal separation. Therefore, when someone says, “I am legally separated,” it simply isn’t true. (If they are from another state then it is possible that the law actually recognizes “legal separation.”) If you and your spouse have come to an agreement that you are “separated,” it would be behoove you to confirm that you are both going to be dating other people. While one spouse may think that being separated is just “taking a break,” the other spouse may think that they have free reign to date as many as people as possible. Before entering the dating scene, it would be wise to confirm that you and your spouse are on the same page in this regard. Additionally, even if you and your spouse agree to date other people, there is a possibility that you are still living together. If you are living together, then it is in your best interest to actually state “I am separated, but still living with my ex,” as to not mislead anyone. No one will fault you for being honest and transparent.
Remember your sensitivity chip
Same Page: As previously discussed, when entering the dating scene while “separated” or in the process of getting a divorce, it’s best to make sure you and your spouse are on the same page. People go through tons of emotions when it comes to getting a divorce. Even if both parties accept that dissolving a marriage is the best course of action, the end of a marriage can have a lot of different effects on people. A surefire way to ensure that a divorce goes from bad to worse, is to blindside your spouse by having dates or a girlfriend/boyfriend before the divorce is even finalized. In order to keep things amicable, it’s best to make sure that you are transparent and forthcoming about your intentions of dating other people.
Be aware of your surroundings: If you are still living with your spouse, be aware of your behaviors and actions while in your common residence. Even if you have an understanding that you will both be seeing other people, there is no need to shove that information into the face of the person who is technically still your spouse. If you are going to use dating applications, you do not need to use them on the home computer and if you do, then there is no need to leave your online accounts on display. While you may be amicable with your spouse, it may still sting if he or she reads your online dating profile or your conversations with potential suitors. If you insist on using a shared computer for your online dating adventures, then make sure you log off from your account when leaving the computer. For all you know, your spouse has an account on that same website, which means if they go to log in, if you do not actually “sign off,” ALL of your information will be displayed prominently for your spouse. Nothing good can come from this. In addition to your online presence, be aware of your physical presence in the home. If you are living with your spouse, fights and issues are bound to come if you feel the need to be out every night of the week or choose to come home late, if at all. While you have every right to have a social life, your social life can easily become a source of tension and animosity if you feel the need to make it well-known just how social you are.
Additionally, also be aware of your surroundings when you are out of the house. Whether living with your spouse or living separately, there are probably people in your community who know you and your spouse. If you are going on dates, be mindful of the fact that if you go somewhere locally, there is a possibility that your spouse will end up finding out about it “through the grapevine.” As always, being forthcoming is the best way to keep your relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse amicable. However, even if you are completely transparent and forthcoming, there is no need to have your social life be the topic of conversation at the local PTO fundraiser.
Keep Your Priorities in Check
Whether you are “separated,” going through the process of divorce, or have been divorced for several years, as a general rule, I tell clients not to introduce children to new significant others until they are in a committed relationship for at least three (3) months. I completely understand the mindset that your children are important to you and that you want any potential love interest to care and accept your children. However, until you know that someone actually has the potential for a long-term relationship, that person should not meet your children. As the most important people in your life, your children’s feelings and opinions should always come first. By introducing someone to your children prematurely, it effects the child in many ways. It also shapes the way your children think of you. No parent needs a child to grow older and have memories of a parade of suitors coming in and out of their lives. Only once you have a meaningful connection with someone, he or she can meet your children. This same principle should be applied to religious events. Your children are already going through a period of transition if you are in the process of divorce or currently separated. Children are only first getting comfortable with the idea that they will now have double the family celebrations to which they are accustomed. During this period of transition, make sure your children are comfortable with the transition prior to insisting new love interests share in the religious celebration, which is usually reserved for family only.
Special Events are for the Children: Even once you have an established relationship with someone, remember that you are the parent. Not your significant other. In conjunction with “remember your sensitivity chip,” when a child has a special event, it really means a lot to him or her that both parents are there (even if the parents do not sit near each other and cannot hold a conversation). If a child witnesses two parents at a special event, it will make the child happy. However, if a soon-to-be ex-spouse is unaware that you have a new significant other and you feel the need to bring him or her to every practice, fundraiser or special ceremony, that may cause a reaction from your soon-to-be ex. If you really want your significant other to appear events with you, you should, at the very least, try to broach the topic with your soon-to-be ex, just to avoid unnecessary drama. No child deserves their special moment to be eclipsed by parents fighting because someone insisted on bringing their new love interest to an event.
General Safety Concerns: If you decide to start your adventures in dating by using phone applications or online websites, then make sure you are being safe. Never give out your address or banking information to anyone you have not met (regardless of how charming he or she may seem). Never send anyone money, regardless of the tale he or she tells you about an “urgent dire” financial situation. (No one deserves to be bailed out of jail or have their loan payment made by you when you have not yet met them.) A lot of divorcees seem to think that applications and websites have safety precautions put in place to ensure you are not meeting unsavory characters. This is not the case. It is your responsibility to make sure you and your personal information stay safe. Although it may seem chivalrous that someone is willing to pick you up for a date, it is not a good idea for anyone to give out their address, especially when there is a possibility that you will never want to see that person after the first date. It is also unwise to voluntarily go to someone’s house when you have never met that person. When first meeting people, it is usually smartest to make sure you meet the person in a public place. The fact of the matter is that dating is tough. To the people that can meet one person online and fall in love, I applaud them. However, for the majority of the population it will take meeting a few people before meeting someone that has any long-term potential. The last thing you want is to be stuck in someone else’s home, or your own, with someone you have absolutely no interest in dating. At least in a public place, you have the ability to make a quick exit if you find yourself with someone who is offensive, ill-mannered or just the complete opposite of the person you thought you were meeting.
While these safety concerns, as well as the other advice in this article, may all seem like common sense, just remember divorce and separation effect everyone differently. Entering the dating world can be daunting, which means that sometimes rational thought gets put on the back burner. If you choose to enter the dating world, just make sure you are cognizant of the thoughts and feelings of those around you, and as with most adult relationships, honesty is always the best policy.
At Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC., our New Jersey divorce lawyers can help you resolve your case efficiently.