Dating during a divorce is a tough decision to make. The decision to end a marriage may be the culmination of months or years of marital strife and discord. While waiting for your divorce to be finalized, it is normal to want to reestablish old and new friendships. However, you should be aware of the effect dating could have on your divorce before making the decision to begin a new relationship.
You remain married during a divorce
The law in Ontario, Canada, does not require married couples to go through a formal legal process in order to live separate and apart from each other. It is highly recommended that couples enter into a written agreement before separating that settles financial and child custody issues, including:
- Child custody
- Visitation and parental access to children
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Property distribution
- Responsibility for debts
Separation does not terminate your marriage. You and your spouse continue to be married in the eyes of the law even though you are living separate and apart. A divorce proceeding is a formal court action that results in a judge issuing a court order terminating the marriage.
Legal complication of dating during a divorce
Adultery is one of the fault grounds for obtaining a divorce in Ontario. Dating while you are still married could cause your spouse to suspect it is a romantic relationship that began before the divorce action was commenced.
The grounds upon which a court grants a divorce usually does not influence financial issues. However, knowing that you are dating could cause your spouse to attempt to delay the divorce by refusing to negotiation a settlement and force the court to schedule a hearing. An uncontested divorce where you and your spouse reach a settlement takes less time to complete than one where the court is forced to decide financial and custody issues.
What effect will dating have on my custody rights?
As a general rule, dating while a divorce is pending should not affect your custody or parenting rights. Negotiated agreements or court orders pertaining to child custody and parenting arrangements must focus on the best interests of the child. The facts to be considered when determining the best interests of a child include:
- Child’s age and stage of development
- Special needs of the child
- Relationship of the child with each parent
- Relationship of the siblings and other family members
- Wishes of the child
- Parenting ability of each parent
Other considerations affecting parenting arrangements and custody include incidents of family violence or substance abuse as well as mental health issues of household members. The background of the person with whom a parent is having a dating or romantic relationship could become a factor in determining the best interests of a child depending upon the amount of contact that person will have with the child.
Dating relationships during divorce
An otherwise amicable divorce can quickly turn into a contested court proceeding when one of the parties discovers their spouse is dating or romantically involved with someone. A divorce action where all financial and child custody issues have been settled through negotiation between the parties is quicker and less expensive than a contested divorce where the court must decide the issues.
Before you decide to begin dating during a divorce, you should arrange for a consultation with an Ontario family lawyer. The advice and guidance of a lawyer whose practice focuses on family law matters can be invaluable in helping protect your rights during your divorce.
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