Your marriage is over. The divorce is in the works. You’ve been living apart from your soon-to-be ex-spouse for several months.
You’ve even managed to come to terms with the fact that what once seemed like your best chance at a lasting relationship just sort of fell apart. You’re now ready to start picking up the pieces and rebuilding your life—maybe with someone else.
In fact, you’re lonely, even if you’re not ready to phrase it (even to yourself) in such stark terms.
Is it time to start dating again?
No, you can’t start dating again, writes Demetria L. Lucas in The Root. From an ethical perspective, she says that it’s just not right to date again until the divorce is final. She rightly notes that this can require strong willpower. In fact, she even cites North Carolina law as an example of a state where couples need to live separate and apart for a full year before filing for no-fault divorce.
At the same time, Ms. Lucas acknowledges that this period without romantic interaction can be an emotionally difficult time, particularly for men. She quotes Daniel Buccino, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, who says, “Men’s social lives largely revolve around their spouses and family, and when that is disrupted, it can leave men more isolated and prone to depression.” Studies have found that men’s rates of depression can spike sixfold after a divorce or separation.
Ms. Lucas says that men who rush too quickly into dating are setting themselves up for failure. About half of newly divorced men hope to remarry, but women will not seriously consider men who begin dating before their divorce is finalized. Moreover, she asserts, a woman who is willing to date a still-married man is not a good contender for forming a stable relationship.
The legal perspective
As North Carolina family law attorneys, we feel it’s also necessary to throw an additional note of caution into the mix. Divorce from bed and board, which is North Carolina’s version of fault-based divorce, only permits a handful of grounds—but one of those reasons is adultery. If your divorce is at all contentious, and if you begin a sexual relationship with someone else before your divorce is final, your spouse may try to withdraw assent to a no-fault divorce and re-file for a divorce from bed and board on the grounds of adultery.
In some circumstances, a fault-based divorce may give your spouse leverage on alimony, child custody, and child support decisions. The best way to avert a situation like this? Avoid temptation, and stay out of the dating pool until your divorce is final.