Dating at the best of times can be a complex affair – what with balancing work and pleasure as well as negotiating through torturous terrains of idealistic notions and past relationships. However when the guy you are dating happens to be going through a divorce, there can be even more emotional, family and legal issues to work through. No less important are moral questions about whether it is wrong to date a man who is going through divorce and before he is formally a single again.
Get the real picture
As a sign of the confusing times we live in, you may come upon a date who tells you that he is going through a divorce when what he really mean is that he is simply thinking about getting one. Such a date may be ready to move you with a sob story about how mean, unfaithful his wife is when the reality may be entirely different. So before you find yourself drawn into an unhappy situation, make sure you have the facts. Ask your partner if he has actually filed for divorce and not merely seeing a lawyer or checking with his shrink. Even when your partner seems genuinely committed to getting a divorce, he might back away eventually by deciding to give his marriage another chance or when confronted with the possibility of losing the kids. Get the full story before you start seriously dating a partner who for all legal purposes may not be single at all. Later on you may feel terrible and wrong about having ended up dating a married man even though you may have actually mislead the whole time.
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Know where you stand legally
The primary source of moral discomfort about dating a man going through a divorce is because of the ambiguity of his marital position. According to the law, 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 your date and his spouse are still married for all legal purposes. Thus if you are guided by strict morals, then dating such a man may seem wrong to you since a marriage can declared to be over only when the parties filing for divorce are both restored to the status of single persons at the completion of the divorce process. What complicates things further is that different states in a country may 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 start taking seriously the new person in your life, check with him about the legal implications since this might have a bearing on his single status and your feelings of being right or wrong in dating him.
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Beware of making things worse for your partner
Even if you are satisfied that emotionally and legally you are doing no wrong in dating a man going through a divorce, there can be other pitfalls, especially in the context of your date’s ongoing divorce petition. In some cases, dating before the finalization of the divorce process may be construed as infidelity on the part of your partner and he may have to explain in the court why he couldn’t wait before the process is through. This is especially true in case of a messy divorce where your date and his ex may have locked horns over contesting issues like child custody or alimony. The resentment and hurt that is already there will be compounded many times over once his spouse finds that your date has begun seeing other 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 as possible for your partner. Thus it is best to avoid an overtly romantic relationship at this point; instead let your date focus on getting over with the paperwork as early as possible so that you both are free to date openly and without anxieties.
Reasons behind the divorce
If you started dating this guy after he had already filed for divorce, there is little that can be faulted morally. However if the reason why he filed for divorce was an extra-marital affair with you, then you can find yourself carrying the burden of blame as well as guilt. Even though your date’s marriage must have been weak to begin with – or he would not have succumbed to an affair with you – still there may be times when you may be questioning yourself if this was the right thing to do.
Even if your date had already filed for divorce before meeting you, the reasons behind it can again be pertinent. You may need to rethink your choice of a partner if you find out that the grounds for divorce have to do with emotional, physical or marital abuse inflicted by the very guy you are dating on his wife. Again if he is a serial adulterer, you would do well to consider whether you should be seeing this man at all. Even if he has not been to blame for the divorce, perhaps it is possible that he is dating you on rebound and may not be there for the long haul.
Filing for a divorce means that a marriage has already broken up, whether or not the court has stamped its legal approval on the sundering. While dating a man going through a divorce is not wrong in itself, circumstances surrounding the legal process often have a bearing and you need to be aware of all this if you are dating a guy who is going through a divorce.