While there might not be a law that prohibits dating during a divorce, is it really a wise thing to do? You might feel as free as a (quarantined) bird and ready to maintain a 6-foot distance with a new love interest, but according to the law, a person is married until the divorce is finalized (whomp, whomp). North Carolina requires a one year separation before a couple can file for divorce, so even if you feel single and ready to mingle, it’s important to approach any budding relationship with a large degree of caution. Although your ex has no say in whether you date or who you date post-separation (unless specified in a separation agreement), a new relationship might put a bitter taste in your ex’s mouth and one magical night at Cook Out can have some serious ramifications. Here are 7 things to consider before throwing caution to the wind and becoming a Tinderella before your divorce is finalized.
- Jealousy, The Green-Eyed Monster. You’ve been bragging to all your friends about your “conscious uncoupling” for months now, but if you think your soon-to-be ex is above jealousy and petty revenge, I wouldn’t put (your) money on it. Even if your spouse is a self-proclaimed empath who sells healing crystals and writes books about amicable break-ups, don’t be surprised when they get their evolved panties in a bunch the minute you start dating someone new. Our advice? If you are one of the lucky few who has a truly “amicable” divorce, then do everything you can to keep it that way.
- Rumors Of Adultery. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if your spouse cheated on you with half of North Carolina during the length of your marriage—the minute they get wind of you hitting up Bojangles with a new “friend,” prepare for levels of petty you didn’t even know were possible. If you immediately jump into the dating scene, don’t be surprised when your timeline is questioned and you’re accused of adultery prior to the separation. If you don’t want to add fuel to your ex’s fire, it’s best to avoid the dating scene completely (and DEFINITELY avoid dating anyone you told your ex not to worry about).
- Spousal Support. Regardless of whether you’re the “dependent” spouse or the “supporting” spouse, dating during the divorce process has the potential to drastically affect how much money you either receive or dish out. If your ex has evidence that your relationship began prior to your separation, the dependent spouse can lose any chance of alimony. If you’re the supporting spouse, any past “indiscretions” can affect an award of alimony. If you start living with your new boo, you’ve basically kissed any chance of alimony goodbye.
- Property Distribution. Making your ex jelly by dating someone new can backfire while on the road to divorce, so if you’re hoping for a friendly negotiation in regards to property distribution, avoid doing anything that could rock the boat. If you are looking to give up your right to spousal support in exchange for a larger property settlement, then it’s important to remain on good terms. Why would your ex agree to give you more marital property when they think it’s possible that you might eventually shack up with your new love, thereby eliminating their need to pay alimony in the future? Don’t give them a leg to stand on! If you’re lonely, I’d suggest a puppy or a cardboard cut-out of Jason Momoa.
- Parenting Arrangements. The minute a parent feels like they’re being replaced by someone else, regardless of how serious a new relationship is, they are going to fight tooth and nail for more time with their children. Even if you started with a cordial parenting plan, it was originally made under the assumption that each spouse would be parenting solo. What happens when someone new enters the picture? Complications, that’s what, and added “provisions” that you may or may not be happy about.
- Emotional Health Of Your Kids. Regardless of how amicable a divorce is, there’s no denying that it’s always hard on the kids. It’s difficult enough for children to let go of their familiar routines and adjust to a new schedule between two homes, but expecting your kids to adapt to (and accept) your new love interest is a HUGE ask. Divorce is a turbulent, exhausting process for everyone involved, but regardless of how tired you are, your kids need quality time with you now more than ever. How are you going to give them the time and attention they need when so much of your energy is being focused on a budding relationship?
- Self-Care. Dating to distract yourself from a long and drawn-out legal process might be tempting, but divorce is emotionally traumatic for everyone. Nothing will raise your stress level like going to court and regurgitating all the sordid deets of your marriage, so don’t be surprised when depression comes out of nowhere and hits you like a brick to the face. Studies have shown that divorcees experience a 23% higher mortality rate, so it’s extremely important to take care of your emotional, mental, and physical health during the length of your divorce process.
Before you step into a situationship that you’ll regret, stay far away from Bumble, Tinder, OkCupid, Hinge, or eHarmony’s “29 Dimensions of Compatibility.” Instead, take this time to focus on your loved ones, finances, and personal health. Trust me, sharing a Triple Dipper at Chili’s with your Tinder date isn’t worth the risk (plus, why share a Triple Dipper when you can have one by yourself)?