Dating Before a Divorce is Final in Wisconsin
Know Your Rights & The Risks
The end of your marriage is finally in sight and you and your spouse have been separated for what seems like forever. Is it safe to start dating again while your divorce is pending? What happens when you start dating before your divorce is finalized? Read on, to find out!
Dating Before Your Divorce is Final Can Impact the Financial Decisions in Your Divorce
If, while your divorce is pending, you are spending a lot of money on dating apps, or on courting your new love interest, the court can make you account for those expenditures and can charge them against you in a divorce.
For example, if you spend money taking your new girlfriend to Mexico or buying her expensive jewelry, the court will deem those expenses extraneous to the marriage and could find that they are examples of “marital waste”—that is, a wrongful dissipation of marital assets for a non-marital purpose.
Because marital assets should be available to you and your spouse and children—and should not go toward the benefit of third parties–the court could punish you by making you unilaterally reimburse the marital estate or pay your spouse a sum of money to offset your wasteful expenditures.
The court will also very often be prejudiced against a party that spends money during a divorce in this manner and it is possible the court will disfavor other arguments or positions you might take.
Dating Before Your Divorce is Final Can Impact the Custody and Placement Decisions in Your Divorce
If you have children and begin dating while your divorce is pending, the court can consider the impact of your new relationship on your children.
For example, if you are spending a lot of time with your new love interest and it negatively impacts the amount of time you can spend with your children, the court will likely limit your time with your children accordingly.
Likewise, if you choose to introduce your new significant other to your children, the court can consider whether this person is a good influence on your children. The person can (and probably will) be called as a witness or could be subject to third-party discovery efforts because if they are living with the children, the court must consider whether the “mental or physical health or a person living in a proposed custodial household negatively affects the child.” The court must also consider whether there is evidence “a person with whom a parent has a dating relationship” has a criminal record or has engaged in abuse or neglect of a child.
Dating Before Your Divorce is Final Can Make Your Divorce More Expensive
Dating while your divorce is pending could inspire feelings of jealousy or revenge in your spouse. If your spouse feels hurt or rejected, they may not be as inclined to negotiate or may even purposely take unreasonable positions to hurt you or to prolong the divorce.
If your spouse raises allegations that your new relationship is depleting marital finances or is negatively affecting your children, the court may have to spend additional time and resources investigating your relationship’s impact on your children and family finances.
This will result in increased attorneys fees for all parties and will likely prolong the court process. Dating during a divorce never makes things cheaper or easier!
Wisconsin Divorce Court Has The Authority to Issue Orders Limiting Your New Relationship
If your spouse requests it, most Wisconsin family courts will enter an order that prohibits significant others from being around the children during overnight placement. There usually isn’t an all encompassing “no contact” order (unless the significant other has a relevant criminal history), but courts do have discretion during the divorce to order the parties not to have a new boyfriend or girlfriend around the children at any time.
Can I move in with my new partner before my divorce is finalized?
Short answer: Yes, but proceed with (a lot of) caution. You’re putting your child’s custody and placement at risk.
Some parents have logical reasons for moving in with a new partner during a divorce such as:
- they aren’t financially independent and economically they can’t afford to live on their own.
- they don’t want to (or lack the ability to) move in with their parents.
However, the court may view these more as “excuses” than “reasons” for you to live with a new significant other while the divorce is pending.
As discussed above, moving in with a significant other can also affect the financial orders and the custody and placement orders in your divorce.
For example, if you choose to move in with a new significant other so that you can split the household expenses with them and make living away from your spouse more affordable, the court may consider the fact your expenses have been mitigated by living together and may not require your spouse to pay you as much as he or she would have if you were living alone.
Likewise, moving in with your new partner can negatively impact your custody and placement orders. Courts have a tendency to view new relationships during a divorce as unstable and temporary. They, therefore, are likely to conclude that moving in with a new partner creates an unstable and temporary living environment for your children at a time when they most need stability and security. The court may believe you have prioritized your short-term happiness and convenience over your children’s long-term adjustment. If they believe you are not capable of making good decisions or that you will not put your children first, they could award custody or more placement time to the other parent.
If you would like to talk about how your dating relationship could impact your divorce, please contact one of our attorneys for a free, confidential consultation.