My clients often ask me, am I allowed to date? Or even more common, is my spouse allowed to date? Although dating during a divorce can be emotional, and finding out that your spouse is dating can be painful, the answer is yes – either one of you are allowed to date. Essentially, it is not the Court's job to surveil the parties' love lives, and doing so would require the Court to overstep the bounds of its authority. As a result, the Court typically will not consider any dating or other acts of adultery in rendering its decisions in the divorce case.
Although you are allowed to date, and in general, dating will not change the Court's decision on most issues, there are some issues that can arise as a result of dating during your divorce. The most common issue is dissipation. Dissipation occurs when one spouse uses marital resources for their own benefit for purposes unrelated to the parties or their marriage. In other words, dissipation occurs when a party takes marital funds, uses it for their sole benefit, and not for the benefit of the parties or their marriage. Dissipation can only occur during the breakdown of the marriage. If a party dissipates a marital resource, the other party can ask the court to require the dissipating party to reimburse the marital estate the value of the resource dissipated. A prime example of dissipation is spending money on an affair.
With this in mind, it is easy to see that dissipation can become an issue when either party is dating during the pendency of the divorce. If a party goes out to dinner with their significant other, not their spouse, and pays for the entire meal, the price of the meal constitutes dissipation. If a party buys gifts for their significant other, not their spouse, the price of the gift constitutes dissipation. As a result, the other party could ask the court to make the dissipating party reimburse the marital estate the cost of the meal or the cost of the gift. Another issue that could arise is jealousy. Although this will not be a legal issue per se, it is worth mentioning. If the parties are attempting to settle their case, then one party finds out the other is dating, it could result in someone backing out of the deal due to jealousy or hurt feelings.
Deciding whether to date during your divorce is a very personal decision that only you can make for yourself. If you feel you are ready and want to date, go for it! However, if you are going to date during your divorce, it is best to be discreet to avoid problems with hurt feelings and/or jealousy if you are trying to settle your case. It is also best to avoid purchases for your significant other so you do not have an issue with dissipation. Until the divorce is finalized, go dutch treat!