A Survival Guide For Dating While Going Through a Divorce

by Lauren Cook-McKay | Last Updated: September 8, 2021

Consequences of Dating During Divorce | Is It Illegal? | Absolutely DO NOT Do These Things | It Is OK to Do These Things | How to Start Dating

 

Dating can be rocky waters for anyone, but if you’re getting back in the dating game during a divorce, it can be downright terrifying.

Not only do you have to worry about the emotional stress that comes with connecting to new people, but there can be legal, financial and other consequences too.

Before you go and start downloading the dating apps, here’s what you should know about the real life consequences, the do’s and don'ts of dating during divorce, and how to start the process once the divorce papers have been signed and finalized.

picture of a woman dating during divorce

9 Real Life Consequences of Dating During Divorce

Both dating and divorce can get messy when emotions are involved, and mixing them together doesn’t always go well – you could end up with a recipe that blows up in your face, and here’s why.

1. Your Divorce Will Take Longer

You may feel like you’re ready to move and connect with someone new, but your spouse may not feel the same way.

Even if they seem like they’ve come to terms after you asked them to get a divorce, adding a new person into the mix can bring up buried feelings of resentment and anger.

And, most of the time, angry and resentful people aren’t going to be keen on cooperation – rather than settle the divorce amicably, your spouse may decide to draw the case out longer, if only to make your life (and your new partner’s) a little harder.

2. Your Divorce Settlement Will Be in Jeopardy

While it can depend on the state you’re living in, dating during divorce can actually be considered adultery – some states, like Texas, consider you a married couple until you’ve signed the divorce papers.

Adultery is still grounds for divorce in many states, but it could help your spouse create a fault-based argument against you as an adulterer.

If they can create enough doubt that you’ve been using community funds to go on dates or buy gifts for a lover, you could end up having to reimburse that money  – or letting your spouse take a bigger chunk of the settlement.

3. Your Children Are Not Ready

The divorce process can be stressful for anyone, but if you’ve got children, divorce can be especially rocky.

In many cases, your children are still processing the split (or holding out hope that their parents can make it work), and adding someone new to the mix doesn’t help.

Some children may feel like you’re using a new partner to replace their other parent, or if they’re young enough, they may try and blame the new partner for the entire divorce.

Not only does dating during a divorce become more confusing for your kids, but it can also affect how they view you or your new lover too.

Throughout the divorce, dating may negatively impact their mental health, and it can also take time away from having one-on-one time with your kids when they are struggling with the divorce.

4. Get Ready For a Complicated Child Custody & Co-Parenting Arrangement

Just like dating can draw out the divorce process, it can also play a big role on how amicable your spouse is about child custody and co-parenting.

If it makes your life a little harder, some people may be unwilling to accept any co-parenting arrangement that you propose or even fight for full custody.

Not to mention, your spouse may also have concerns about who you’re dating.

While the divorce is still fresh, they may be nervous about who spends time around your children – especially if they’ve already got hesitation about your new partner.

5. Your Divorce Will Get More Expensive

Dating can easily draw out the divorce process, and that can cost you in legal and attorney fees.

You can also end up paying more if your spouse decides to pursue a larger divorce settlement on grounds of adultery.

6. Your Healing Process Will Be Impacted

Whether you’ve been married five years or fifteen, many people liken divorce to death – you may not have a body to bury, but you’re still putting your marriage in the ground.

You shouldn’t be surprised if you experience all the stages of grief – including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

This grief can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever experience, but it’s essential for the healing process.

The problem with dating during divorce is that it doesn’t always allow you to feel the full scope of grief – you may meet someone new before you’ve completely grieved the previous relationship.

You may not see how dating impacts your healing process immediately, especially if you’re starry-eyed with a new lover.

But, whether you feel it in three months or three years, dating too early can stunt your emotional growth and prevent you from completely moving on.

picture of a woman conflicted about dating during divorce

7. The Person You Are Dating Could Resent You

Even if you’re direct about your situation from the start, dating during a divorce can also put a lot of unnecessary stress on your new partner and your new relationship.

Any of the anger, resentment, stress, or sadness that you feel during the divorce can rub off on that new person, especially if you’re trying to use them as an emotional crutch or moral support.

There are plenty of ways your new partner can feel the strain of your divorce, including:

Going through a divorce can put enough strain on you as a person, but it can also crush a new relationship before it’s gotten a chance to blossom.

Rather than starting fresh, the new relationship can be stained from the messiness of your past one.

8. Your Friends & Family Can Turn on You

When you’re going through a divorce, everyone in your life gets a front-row seat to the drama, including your friends and family.

While these people can be great pillars to lean on for moral support, they may also have their own opinions about how you should be handling things – including new relationships.

Some friends and family members may be supportive, but it’s also possible for them to turn on you as well.

Rather than being excited about your new relationship or new phase of your life, they may feel like you’re moving on too quickly.

If you rely on these people for moral support, this can be one of the most difficult consequences that come with dating during divorce.

9. Your Work Will Suffer

Going on dates and pursuing new relationships can be a time commitment for anyone who’s working part-time or full-time, but add a divorce on top of that?

It’s almost impossible for other parts of your life, like your job, not to be negatively impacted.

After a weekend of meeting new people or fighting with a spouse over divorce settlements, you may feel exhausted by the time Monday morning rolls around and it’s time to head into the office.

Is It Illegal to Date During a Divorce?

Although it’s not illegal to date while you’re going through the divorce process, that doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest.

Even if the judge won’t order you not to date, you could still face some of the consequences listed above, including:

If You Must Date, Absolutely DO NOT Do These Things

If you’ve decided that you still want to pursue dating while you divorce, here are some things you can do to keep the consequences of a new relationship to a minimum.

Don’t Be Open About Dating

Whether they hear it from family and friends or see it on social media, dating openly during a divorce can upset your spouse.

If they have to hear about the relationship from their own friends or see it plastered on social media, they may feel angry or even humiliated that you’re publicly moving on so quickly.

While you may not want to hide that you’re dating from your spouse, you should still aim to be discreet. That means:

Besides hurt feelings, things like social media posts can also become evidence that you were “having an affair” during the marriage, which could affect your divorce settlement.

Don’t Go Crazy on the Dating Apps

You may be meeting strangers on dating apps, but that doesn’t mean you or your information is anonymous.

In fact, if your ex finds out that you’re using dating apps, they may be able to use some of the information in your profile against you in court.

picture of a woman going through a divorce on a dating app

So, while dating apps may be one of the easiest ways to connect with new people, you may want to be careful about how much you use them – or avoid using them completely until the divorce is final.

If you’re going to date, you can always leave yourself open to meeting someone organically, but avoid intentionally seeking a new relationship with dating apps.

Don’t Date Until You’re Physically Separated

During the divorce process, you may or may not be physically separated from your ex yet – and if you aren’t, dating should be a big no-no.

Not only is it awkward to bring a new partner into the same space as your ex, but it’s almost certain to bring up feelings of resentment and anger.

And, if there’s evidence that you’ve been dating while you’re still living with an ex, a judge may be more likely to consider this infidelity or adultery.

Don’t Involve Your Children

Even if you’ve found a new partner and think the relationship has a ton of potential, it’s still wise to wait before introducing them to your children and family.

It may complicate your own divorce and affect custody arrangements, but it could also change the way your children see you and your partner.

Many children hold out hope that their parents will reconcile, and if you’re bringing a new person around too soon, they may view you and your new partner negatively.

Rather than welcoming them into the family, some children may feel as if you’re trying to replace their other parent – or that the new partner is “taking you away” from the other parent.

Don’t Sacrifice Your Own Healing

Dating during a divorce can be a way for some people to avoid the grief process that comes along with separation – rather than deal with those negative emotions, some people may find it easier to start dating so they can experience the excitement of new love again.

However, avoiding the deep emotional wounds caused by a divorce doesn’t make them go away, it just delays the healing process.

If you know you’re still trying to heal from the events of your marriage, a new relationship is only going to take time away from that.

Don’t Lie to New Partners

When they start dating again, a lot of divorcees may feel like they’re bringing a lot of emotional baggage into the relationship – and that feeling only becomes heightened when you’re still in the midst of the divorce.

Although telling new partners about your divorce may feel awkward, it’s still crucial to tell the truth.

Not only do new partners need to know, but new relationships aren’t likely to last if they’re built on a lie or your new lover finds out you’ve been keeping the truth from them.

picture of a couple disappointed after dating while going through a divorce

Don’t Start a New Family Too Soon

Even if you think you’ve found your soulmate in a new relationship and you’re eager to start a family, you don’t want to impregnate someone else (or become pregnant) until the divorce is final.

Along with making the situation more complicated, a pregnancy can also delay the divorce process too.

Even if you’re physically separated from your spouse, pregnancies can bring up questions about paternity – and a judge may delay the divorce proceedings until the baby is born.

If You Must Date, It Is OK to Do These Things

Now that we’ve covered the big no-nos for dating during a divorce, is there anything you should be doing?

As it turns out, yes – here’s a couple of things to keep in mind if you do decide to pursue dating during the divorce process.

Do Socialize in Larger Groups

Pairing off with someone alone can appear like an extramarital affair, so if you can, try socializing with new people in larger groups – especially until you’re separated.

Try going out with single friends, or stick to a larger group at networking events.

If you do meet someone while you’re with a group, you can exchange contact information, but don’t spend time with them alone while you’re still at the event.

More than just keeping your reputation intact, hanging out in larger groups can also make the dating scene feel less intimidating, especially if the people in your group are also trying to meet new partners.

Do Be Honest With New Partners

Regardless of how you’re meeting people, it’s always important to be upfront about your situation.

If you’re using dating apps, this can be as simple as including the status of your relationship in your profile.

Or, if you’re socializing in groups and meeting people that way, you’ll still want to make sure you’re direct about the situation.

If the other person seems interested and asks you out (or even just for your number), you may want to give them a heads up that you’re still in the midst of a divorce.

While explaining your situation immediately may seem awkward, it’ll also weed out unfit candidates who are looking for something different.

Do Prioritize Your Own Healing

Dating is hard enough when you’re an adult, but stack it on top of working, dealing with a family, and going through a divorce, and you’ll hardly have a moment to yourself.

Some people may be able to find the time to date during a divorce, but if you can’t, you shouldn’t force it.

Your own healing, whether that happens by taking time to yourself or going through therapy, should always take priority. And, if you do start dating but you find it’s too time-consuming, there’s no shame in waiting.

Spending your free-time alone or with your family can all aid in the healing process – and new relationships and dating may just take away from that.

Do Seek Support From Others

If you feel like you’re ready to start dating during the divorce, it’s important to make sure you’ve got a strong support system by your side.

This support system can be anything from family members to close friends, but whoever you confide in, it’s important to make sure you’ve got people that make you feel safe and comfortable when you express your feelings.

picture of 3 women supporting each a friend while going through a divorce

On its own, dating can already be emotionally taxing, but having other people to lean on can make all the difference.

If you’re not able to find support from family or friends, you can always try looking up local (or online) divorce support groups.

Not only are these groups designed for support, but they’ll also understand what you’re going through more than anybody else.
 

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How to Start Dating After Your Divorce Is Final

While it may work in certain situations, dating during a divorce isn’t ideal – and it often comes with a lot more consequences than benefits.

For most people, waiting until after your divorce is final is a much better option, but reentering the dating realm isn’t always easy.

Once you’ve signed those divorce papers, here’s how you can get back into the dating game:

Ask Yourself the Right Questions

Dating successfully after you’re divorced isn’t easy, but most of the time, it comes down to asking yourself the right questions.

Before you download the latest dating app or ask your friends to set you up, it’s important to define what you want.

Here’s a couple of key questions to ask yourself that’ll make sure you’re ready to date (and you know what you’re looking for):

How to Meet New People

One of the biggest struggles of divorced dating is finding ways to meet people – these days, you’re less likely to find love at first sight with the stranger you bump into at the coffee shop, so you’ve got to be intentional about meeting new people.

Luckily, you’ve got a couple of ways to do this.

Dating Apps

While we don’t recommend using them during a divorce, dating apps can come in handy after one.

If you’re using them for the first time, there might be a learning curve, but dating apps are often the quickest way to connect with new people.

Apps like Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, or even Match, may seem tedious, but they also have their advantages.

For one, you can weed out unfit candidates just by looking at their bio – if you’re looking for a serious relationship, you can just swipe left on people searching for hookups.

And, on dating apps, you may not have to disclose much about your status – adding a note that you’ve recently divorced to your profile can let people know without even having to have a conversation.

Classes

If dating apps are a little intense, classes are another way to meet people.

You may already be in school, but if not, you can try taking a class you’re interested in at your local community college.

Meeting someone in person takes some of the pressure off, and you’ll immediately have something in common.

But, even if you don’t meet anyone in the class, you’ll still get the chance to learn something new and make some friends.

Social Events

Social or community events are another option, especially if you don’t have the budget to take a class.

Some events, like your kid’s sporting games, a neighborhood block party, or a local bake sale, are areas where you’re already involved.

picture of people socializing at a house party

The downside to using social events is that you’ll need to approach people in person – while this may be intimidating if you’re shy, you can always ask friends for help.

Make sure you invite a friend to the social event and let them know you’re looking for a potential date.

If you find someone you’d like to approach, your friend may be able to make the introduction for you or break the ice.

Trust Your Instincts

When you’ve spent years or even decades out of the dating game, you’re bound to feel a little rusty.

However, while dating etiquette may have changed, your instincts probably haven’t.

More than just knowing what you want (and what you don’t want), it’s important to trust your instincts about people.

Make sure you only do activities that are within your comfort zone, and if you’ve got a bad gut feeling about someone, don’t be afraid to trust your intuition.

After all, the last thing you need during this transitional period is a bad or even worse a toxic relationship.

Transitioning back into the dating realm is a great way to get in touch with your instincts and to learn how to be secure in them.

How to Tell People You’re Divorced

We’ve talked about adding notes to your dating profile to signal you’re divorced, but when do you actually have a conversation with a new partner about that divorce?

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect time to bring it up – and as long as you feel comfortable talking about it, there’s no “wrong” time to have the conversation.

With that said, you may not want the nitty-gritty details of your divorce to be the first thing you talk about – after all, you’re trying to embrace the future, not live in the past.

However, if you’ve been on a couple of dates and you’re feeling comfortable with the person, there’s nothing wrong with bringing your divorce up.

Don’t Move Too Fast

Regardless of how your previous marriage unfolded, it’s always important to take things slow when you’re dating after divorce.

This isn’t always easy – when you’re experiencing butterflies and lovey-dovey feelings for the first time again, it’s easy to get caught up in your emotions.

But, taking things slow in a new relationship allows you to take the space to keep working on yourself – and if needed, keep working through the healing process.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been dealing with a divorce for years or you just feel like you’re ready to move on, it can be tempting to date during the divorce.

Unfortunately, playing the field isn’t always the right option – not only can it rack up the cost of your divorce and put you at odds with your ex, but it can also interrupt the healing process.

If you do decide to date during divorce, proceed with caution by taking things slow, being discreet, and prioritizing your healing first.

This new stage of life is a journey, and while it may be scary, there’s no rush to reach your destination.

 
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Director of Marketing & Content at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She strongly believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.