Dating & Divorce: Advice from a family law solicitor

Fri 4th Sep 2015

With the summer drawing to a close and the start of the new school term approaching, the change of season seems to have an impact on those in divorce proceedings. This time of year is often the catalyst which warrants a need to reclaim their social lives and a desire to want to build on relationships started during the holidays. It is at this time of year that I am frequently asked about the impact that dating has on divorce proceedings. And in the wake of the Ashely Maddison cyber-attack, people are having to re-think the impact dating has on a divorce.

Separated spouses need to think carefully about starting a new relationship as they will no doubt have an emotional impact on their current spouse and any children of the family. A new relationship, whilst it might be fun and exciting, could throw a spanner in the works when trying to achieve an amicable settlement and could limit the building of a positive parenting relationship. Parties therefore need to be sure whether the time is right for a relationship.

The impact of a new relationship can at times been seen as provocative and can make the prospect of an amicable settlement harder because the arrival of a new partner could prove to be a psychological or emotionally barrier to a settlement. The implications of having a new partner can also have an impact on young children of the family who may seek a change to their living arrangements. Equally the views of adult children cannot be ignored as they are either the silent mediators that work to repair the relationship between their parents or will want nothing more to do with the parent that has swiftly moved on.

As we are now living in age where anything and everything can be found through social media, the value of discretion and privacy has never been higher. Parties must think carefully about announcing one off dates on social media as you can be sure questions will be raised by the separated spouse; “please confirm the identity of the new partner, their profession, capital position and intentions to co-habit and remarry.” I suspect that if these questions come up on a second date then a third is unlikely. If you are prepared to announce a date or relationship you need to be prepared to answer questions about it.

If you are the spouse that has had to leave the family home (on an interim basis) and move to rented accommodation or are sofa surfing during the divorce and financial proceedings, a new relationship may be a reprieve since you may have more desirable accommodation on offer. However, parties who are divorcing need to consider the impact this could have on financial proceedings. The prospect of co-habitation could become a side show and if accepted it could trigger the end of spousal maintenance claims and effect the division of capital – as the assets of a new partner could become a resource relied uponduring the proceedings. If the new partner is also going through their own divorce there is a risk that you could become embroiled in their proceedings and so you could find yourself being asked about the nature of the relationship, your own financial position and your future intentions. One divorce is likely to take up a great deal of time and effort to resolve so you have to think twice about juggling two at the same time if you become involved in a new partner’s dispute.

Even if you have formed a new relationship and live in 2 separate households keep your finances separate. Standing order payments to a new partner, sharing joint accounts and the acquisition of joint assets can imply a sharing of resources. When funds are transferred between accounts you may have to give detailed explanations in respect of every payment to a new partner which may have to be supported by additional evidence. Forensic enquiries into bank transactions can be costly in terms of time and legal fees.

Due to the pitfalls that dating can have on divorce, individuals need to be balanced between being ruled by their head or their heart. Most importantly, individuals must think carefully about the need for discretion, tact and the impact their actions will have on the case and members of the wider family.