You’ve decided to get a divorce. You’re starting to think about moving on. You might start noticing other people and begin to think about dating. Before taking that step, however, you need to know the potential consequences on the divorce.
There is no “legal separation” in New Jersey.
Unlike some other states, New Jersey law does not recognize “legal separation.” So, even though you might be separated, you’re still legally married until the court enters a Judgment of Divorce.
Potential legal pitfalls
If you’re separated from your spouse, before dating, consider these 3 potential adverse legal consequences on the divorce.
1. Increased legal fees
Once you start dating, your spouse might become jealous or resentful. This can decrease your chances of reaching an amicable divorce agreement and significantly increase the cost of legal fees in divorce.
2. Effect on parenting time
The character of dating partners you might bring in contact with your children could negatively impact parenting time arrangements. For instance, if a dating partner poses an unreasonable risk of physical or emotional harm to the children, your spouse could make an application to the court to restrict that dating partner around the children.
3. Potential consequences for alimony
Dating while separated could adversely affect your legal right to receive post-divorce alimony from your spouse. Specifically, under current New Jersey alimony law, you might not be entitled to receive alimony if you are “cohabitating” with a significant other. Significantly, a couple does not need to be living together on a full-time basis to be considered “cohabitating.” For more on alimony and cohabitation in New Jersey, read this post.
Before you decide to start dating
Here are two things to do before actively seeking out new dating partners while separated:
1. Make sure it’s really over.
Before dating, be sure you really want to end the marriage. If you think you might want to reconcile, have a meaningful talk with your spouse. And if you and your spouse are in counseling together, it’s generally best not to date others until you’ve come to a final decision about the marriage.
2. What’s motivating you?
It’s common to feel hurt or angry when you’re separated. You might ask yourself why you want to start dating again. Be sure you’re not looking to date to fill a void left by the loss of the marriage or to hurt your spouse. You could make matters worse by jumping too quickly into a rebound relationship.
If you decide to start dating
Below are some general guidelines if you do decide to start dating while separated:
If your spouse is having difficulty dealing with the divorce, it’s probably a good idea not to publicize your dating life. Again, this could negatively affect the chances of reaching an amicable divorce agreement and add to legal fees.
How will your children react?
Separation and divorce are significant changes in any child’s life. Regardless of age, children are likely to resist their parents dating soon after a separation. Children typically need time to absorb, digest, and eventually adjust to such a major change in their family life. It’s important to freely allow children to voice their concerns and emotions. For more about when to introduce a new dating partner to your children, read this post.
Bottom line? Before you start dating, consult with a New Jersey divorce lawyer to find out the potential implications and your options. Click here to schedule a personalized consultation.