Dating after Filing for Divorce - How Soon Should you Start?

The unraveling of a marriage is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can go through. Added to this are numerous legal and financial complications that come with the divorce process. Here are a few tips on how to get back to dating and the issues to consider once you have filed for divorce from your spouse.

Understand the legalese

Filing for divorce is not the same thing as being finally divorced. It is the initiation of the legal process of divorce or rather the beginning of the end. This in turn means that until the process is through you and your spouse are still married for all legal purposes. The marriage is usually only over when you both are restored to the status of single persons at the completion of the divorce process. Usually, most states in the US have different laws governing marriage and divorce. For instance in California, there is a process called bifurcation which allows partners to be restored to the status of single persons within six months of filing for divorce. This is so that one can get back to a normal social life while the legal process of divorce follows its own course. So before you jump to the dating bandwagon right after filing for divorce, check with the laws in your state whether this would be the right thing to do since it might determine your single status.

Don’t make it any worse

While it is illegal to remarry before a person has been restored to a single status post filing of divorce, dating is usually not prevented by law. However the real impact of dating right after filing for divorce is on the divorce process. If the divorce is being heard out in the court, you may have to explain to the judge why you couldn’t wait before the process is through. Again if you are already fighting over the divorce with your estranged partner, it will make matters much worse. The resentment and hurt that is already there will be compounded many times over once he/she finds that you have begun seeing other men or women even before the divorce is through. And the last thing you need at this point is an angry soon-to-be-ex who is determined to make things as difficult for you as possible. So hold your horses and concentrate on finishing the paperwork. Refraining from dating at this point will not only speed up the divorce process but leave less of a mess for you to clean up.

Tie up all loose ends

Once you have filed for divorce, it is time to tie up all loose ends. The cleanest way to do this is to cut away all contact with your estranged spouse as soon as possible. Presumably by this time, you are already living separately but if not, find another pad post haste. The longer you take to separate your lives, the harder it will be for you to get back to a normal socializing. Also disentangle bank accounts, credit cards or any other assets held jointly. If you still have some of your stuff at your ex’s place, get them back and unless it is about child visitation rights, stop continuing to meet him/her over the weekends to “catch up”. It is not possible to hold on and let go at the same time.

Take your time

Once you are officially single again, it may be tempting to hit the dating scene straightaway. However at this point it is important to take your time and resolve all underlying issues before jumping into another relationship. You may find emotions of resentment, rage and revenge battling with sorrow and helplessness at what happened. If you were the one to initiate the breakup, feelings of guilt may overwhelm you at times with doubts as to whether you did the right thing. On the other hand, if the filing of divorce was the result of infidelity on your partner’s part, a sense of worthlessness and abandonment may make going on from one day to the next a torture. Work your way through all these feelings and if necessary take the help of a close friend, family member or a professional therapist. Only after you have given yourself enough time to recover from the experience, will you be emotionally ready to date again.

Stay away from rebound relationships

If your divorce is proving to be a particularly messy one, it is natural for you to feel really angry with your ex for putting you and perhaps the kids through all this. It is likely that you would want to start dating again to take revenge on your ex or show him/her that there are lots of other fish in the sea. However rebound relationships rarely work, if at all. Most often the emotional baggage is too heavy to carry and the shadow of a third person in the relationship never makes real intimacy possible. Also it is exceedingly unfair to put an innocent party through an emotional roller-coaster where you are happy with him/her one moment and then ranting about your failed marriage the next.

Explain to the kids

A divorce is particularly tough on the kids. They are devastated by the breakdown of the family and a familiar way of life.  The feelings of loss and abandonment may be accentuated with a vague sense that somehow Mom or Dad left because of something they did. In such a situation, if they see you dating even before the divorce has been finalized, their sense of insecurity and fear of rejection may be further intensified. Give them time to get settled into a new routine and let them feel emotionally secure again. Above all reassure them of your unconditional love and explain it to them that no matter who you meet, you will never leave them and go away.

In most societies, divorce is likely to be a complex process because of the number of parties and issues that need to be safeguarded. While the ideal thing would be to wait till your divorce is final, if you do wish to start dating after filing for divorce, make sure that you are emotionally prepared and doing it for the right reasons.