In previous generations, people were often looked down upon for dating before the finalization of the divorce. Nowadays, it's common knowledge that even the most basic, uncontested divorce takes at least several months; contested divorces take about a year on average from the filing date. Aside from the process of divorce, spouses may have been estranged from each other well long before filing the complaint. In that case, it wouldn't be so shocking that a person would want to date, or at least meet new people. Whether you should venture into the world of pre-judgment dating is dependent on numerous factors, but consideration for one's children is a primary issue for most spouses. While this would normally be a personal decision, many parents wonder if their spouse has a right to object to them dating or starting a new relationship during the divorce proceedings.
The answer to this question is complicated, since all legal disputes involving children are based on the best interests standard. The moral aspect of dating during divorce is not an irrelevant issue, although the courts are less likely to rely on moral outrage nowadays as they were in the 1976 case of DeVita v. Devita. The wife in this case objected to her husband's girlfriend staying overnight at his house on the same nights as the children. The trial judge agreed with the wife's objections, as did the Appellate Division, citing that the mother's moral outrage was likely to be shared by society at large. Social mores have come a long way since the 70s, but judges still have the right to determine whether or not a parent's dating relationship is harmful to the children. Judges, however, are highly unlikely to enforce provisions that give children the power to decide whether or not their parents can have overnight guests. The trial court in Giangeruso v. Giangeruso, for example, ruled that children should not be empowered to such an extent.
Judges today examine various factors before deciding whether a parent's pre-divorce dating habits are harmful to their children. These factors may include, but are not limited to, the ages of the children, the length of the dating relationship, the length of time that the parents have been living apart, whether the child has been introduced to prior dating partners, whether the child has emotional or psychological problems, and if there are indications that the new partner poses a danger to the child. These factors lean towards examining the situation from a factual point of view, rather than moral, but there is clear emphasis on the physical and emotional well-being of the child. Being as this is a pre-judgment matter, judges may temporarily enforce a policy of no new partners during overnight visits, with the intent to review the matter at some point in the future. In any case, it does make sense to give children time to acclimate to a new partner, regardless of where you are in the divorce process.
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