Friday, April 5, 2013

What are the legal consequences to a dating while getting a divorce?

Pretty good little article about the dynamics of dating while still married.  Not all of it is accurate as applied to Kansas Law but still pretty interesting and insightful read.

Ask the Lawyer: Bad to date before the Divorce is Final?
By Robin Sax (Fox 11 Legal Analyst)

Dating before a divorce has been finalized raises all kinds of ethical questions — is it cheating? Is it bad for the kids? Is it too soon? But what about legally? Will it hurt your divorce case if you are dating before the judge has signed the dotted line and officially put an end to the marriage of Mr. and Mrs.?
As you are muddling through this very difficult time in your life, nothing in the world may seem more comforting than the companionship of any other person to ease the pain of the loss of a marriage. But before you jump in, one must consider the consequences of what you do.

Dating before a marriage is final (and even after it's final) could have consequences. More than any other type of legal case, divorce cases are highly personal with the issues driven mainly by the personalities of the parties (and the lawyers). So while I know you want a simple yes or know to the question, only you can decide how relevant or worrisome the consequences are/would be in your case.

Potential Consequences:
Until you sign the dotted, in the eyes of the law you are married until judgment has been entered. So if you happen to live in a state that considers "fault," dating while married could be viewed as adultery and technically could affect the outcome of your case. If you live in a no-fault state (like California) dating and like behavior may not affect blame but can be used as a basis to look at your judgment in other aspects of  the divorce -- like your decision making skills, your ability to act in the best interest of the child, and or your judgment as a whole which could trickle down into other areas.

The standard for custody determination is a "best interest of the child" standard. A court looks at many factors and could look at a dating parent has thinking of their own needs first. A court could assume that the dating parent is not considering the desires of the child, and /or not giving the adequate time to a child and deem that the dating parent is not acting in the best interest of the child. Courts want to make sure kids are treated as a priority, cared for and in a close call the court will give custody to the parent who is available in time and mind to the child.
The purpose of financial support is for the parties to be able to live their life as closely to the lifestyle that they lived when the parties were married. If the court sees that one person is dating and as a result has acquired the same or a better standard of living, the court could determine to lower support or could feel influenced to give less property in close call situations. Should you decide to move in with your new boyfriend/girlfriend, it is likely to be perceived as though you are sharing expenses and therefore need less support. 

Face it, divorce is stressful and wreaks havoc on one's mental well being. Anger is a common feeling amongst splitting partners. There is no source of greater rage than seeing someone move on, have a new partner, or live what appears to be YOUR blissful old life. Whether there is a direct consequence of dating or not you should consider that your spouse may use your dating as an opportunity or justification to make every step of the divorce proceedings to be as hellatious and miserable as possible.

Having laid out the things to think about, know that every situation is unique and only YOU know the intricacies and nuances of your life, divorce, kids, and ex-spouse. 

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