Of all the possible outcomes of a divorce, falling in love may be one of the more interesting to think about. Is it likely? I would say probably not. The fact is that the premise of this blog makes for a more interesting made-for-TV movie than it does as an accurate representation of what you are likely to encounter during a divorce case. Falling in love is difficult to do. I can’t say that I’ve ever met a true hopeless romantic who looks around every turn for a person with whom to become enamored. I suppose these folks exist- maybe they just stay away from lawyers?
At any rate, developing romantic feelings for another person during a divorce is not impossible. Developing romantic feelings for another person during a marriage is not impossible, either. Some of you may know that all too well. If you are concerned, one way or another, about falling in love, developing romantic feelings, or dating another person during your divorce then this blog post is for you. No matter what your personal, religious, or other moral compass tells you about the subject of romance outside of your marriage during a divorce, there are some real-life consequences for your doing so.
Starting a divorce
Where to get started when you need to take the first step towards a divorce. I understand what you are worried about if you are wanting to start down the road toward divorce but are concerned about the consequences for the rest of your life. What will it do to your children? How will impact them short-term and long-term? What about your family? How are they going to take the news of a divorce? Are you going to be the same after the divorce as you were before? How are you going to handle budgeting and fulfilling all the responsibilities that come along with your no longer being married?
Many people find that the final step that they needed to be pushed toward divorce was becoming interested romantically in another person. This can be the last push you needed; the final motivator required is to send you to a lawyer to get the ball rolling on a divorce. Whatever your motivating factor(s) were in starting your divorce the process looks the same for everyone. Filing a divorce petition, servicing your spouse with notice of the divorce, and then beginning to plan for negotiations and the possibility of a temporary order hearing. These are the preliminary steps of a divorce. Everyone follows these same basic steps regardless of what brought them to consider a divorce in the first place.
The first steps toward divorce are sometimes the most difficult in the entire journey. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a proverb says. The person who first uttered or wrote down those words wasn’t thinking about divorce but he may as well have been. There are so many concerns that may be weighing down on you at this moment when it comes to filing for divorce. Once you begin to seriously contemplate whether a divorce is right for you it is difficult to put that thought away even if you want to. The thought of a divorce can be overwhelming to many people even if you try to go through counseling or work through your marital difficulties directly with your spouse.
Why do I think that is? There are probably a lot of really good explanations as to why divorce is difficult to run away from when you spend your time in a marriage that is not working out for you. I think a huge motivating factor has to be the idea that you are running away from something that is disturbing some part of you. It could be that you and your spouse have lost the proverbial spark that brought the two of you together in the first place. Running away from something can be a powerful force and the chief motivator for some of you when it comes to determining why you want to get divorced and what finally pushed you over the edge and into a divorce itself.
However, I think that running towards something can be even more a motivating factor than running away from something. When you have a goal or a destination that can make your move towards divorce that much more attractive. When that destination is a person we can become even more motivated to go forward. We are people-centric, after all. Not only is each of us a person, but the way that we think about our lives, socialize, and do almost everything else in our lives is based on relationships with people. These relationships take on different meanings but at the end of the day, we are interested in people. When you tell a story if you make a person the central character it is more interesting than if the central character were a bear or a muskrat. Attorneys are taught to make arguments to juries based on people. Why? Because people are more interested in people than they are in legal concepts, the law, or anything else that we learn in law school.
That brings us back to our discussion today about love and divorce. If you do fall in love during a divorce or are continuing a romantic affair into the divorce, there are some things that you ought to know in advance. It isn’t enough to just sign off on a divorce petition from your lawyer and then call it a day. Rather, you need to be prepared to be able to participate in the process and guide your case. That is what I would like to talk about next. Divorce is not a process overseen by a lawyer where you are only called upon to sign a document here or there. For that reason, you need to be an active participant in your divorce.
Keep focused on the divorce
This case is not going to be fun. I won’t sit here and make you think otherwise. Even if you relish the thought of separating yourself from your spouse- emotionally, relationally, physically, and legally- it will not be a fun process to go through. What you are looking for is a grey cloud have silver linings type situation. Going through the divorce may be necessary for you and your spouse on some level and you want to be able to keep your mind centered on the case. Believe it or not, that can be tough to do. This is especially true if you are trying to start or continue a romantic relationship during your divorce.
From the very outset of the case, there are details that you need to focus on. For instance, it is not legally required that you hire an attorney to represent you in your divorce. It is recommended if you are asking me, but you do not have to hire an attorney. With that said, you want to get unvarnished truth from people as you lean into the divorce consideration process. The people that you talk to and interact with should be able to give you perspective into your case and situation so you can see it for what it is and not what you necessarily want it to be. Every one of us had clouded a situation or two in our lives with incorrect thoughts that have been impacted by our biases and other preconceived notions. Where we get those notions from is unique to each of us. However, it is easy to see that a significant other or romantic interest by the source of our harboring those kinds of thoughts at a time like this in a divorce.
Many romantic interests in a time like one leading up to a divorce would encourage you to make decisions that may not be in your best interest- or your children’s. I’m not saying every person that dates or is interested in a divorcing man or woman would say or do things that are not aligned with that person’s best interests. However, what I am saying is that there are certainly reasons to think that this could be the case. Listening to the advice of a person who has a vested interest in your getting divorced sooner rather than later is not what you need to hear at that moment. While getting divorced may be necessary and could be in your best interests it sometimes pays to take a step back, slow down and consider your options. Planning and keeping goals in mind are important. Rushing into a divorce may not be smart considering your circumstances.
Be careful about a romantic interest encouraging you to just “get it over with” or something similar to this. I have seen many people who go through a divorce case succumb to this thought process. Once it gets in your head that you just need to get the case over with so you can move on with your life it is a tough one to come back from. Once you get into that mindset you look at every decision through the prism of: is this going to make my case longer or shorter? Sometimes, in a divorce, there are necessary steps that should be taken which will benefit you at the end of the case but will lengthen the case in the short term. While you cannot always predict the future, the decision to forego a decision or a position that would lengthen your case to better serve you, in the end, is not wise.
When you have a romantic interest who wants nothing more than to wrap a case up and move on that means that you will be influenced by that. I have never known a person who was already romantically involved during a divorce to not be swayed by their new love interest. This is human nature, it’s not a reflection of anything else. The people that you spend time with and hang around with will impact your decision-making. This probably isn’t new information to you but I will mention it here anyways. Take that company into consideration as you head into a divorce. The advice and perspective you get during this time should be focused on you and not on someone else.
Adultery matters- legally if not morally- in a divorce
This blog post is not intended to be moralistic. Everyone, your humble blog poster included, has a sense of morality that shapes their life. Just like you, I use those morals to guide the decisions I make in my life. Sometimes I do well by those morals and sometimes I fall short. That’s life. What I wanted to focus on for the remaining part of today’s blog post is to point out that no matter how you feel about cheating on your spouse, infidelity, adultery, etc. is that there can be impacts of the cheating within the case itself. No matter if you feel justified in beginning a romantic relationship while you are married the law does not necessarily agree with that position. Here is what I can tell you about how family law judges will view cheating during your marriage and divorce. More important in many regards is how your spouse will be able to react to the cheating.
When you are in a relationship with someone during your divorce it is hard to hide it. Somehow you will not cover your tracks well enough, and the result will be that your spouse becomes aware of the infidelity. Now, this can go in a few different directions for you as you head into a divorce case. Sometimes the relationship is so limited that your spouse becomes aware of it but knows that this is not the root cause of the divorce. As a result, you may be able to get past the issue in a legal sense.
However, this will almost certainly not be something that your spouse overlooks when it comes to negotiating your case with you. Whereas she may have been agreeable to a certain kind of division of your community property without the cheating, with the cheating she may drive a harder bargain. It is to be expected that you will not be treated in the same way by your spouse at the negotiating table. Her attorney may even guide her to be more objective about the situation but again, human nature is what it is. She won’t be happy with the cheating. Especially if you are taking time away from your children to do whatever it is you are doing.
When it comes to impacts on your case, if you cannot settle your case with your spouse through negotiation then a judge will play a central role in the decision-making process. When your spouse makes arguments to the judge about issues like custody of your children and division of your community estate you can bet that the infidelity is going to play a role. Of course, a lot depends on the nature of the infidelity and the extent to which you engaged with another person outside your marriage. Here is how some of this could factor into your life and divorce now that you are in a position where your case is headed to a trial.
When you have children, you will find that any issue in your personal life that can be made a big deal will be made a big deal by your spouse when you are fighting tooth and nail for custody and conservatorship rights/duties. A drug problem from 15 years ago or the frequency with which you drink alcohol now? Those are likely to be brought up and emphasized. Poor judgment and not being able to keep your children safe will likely be the path that your spouse goes down. Any time that you missed an event to be with your significant other will turn into your being something akin to an unfit parent.
Next, community property is a huge element of a divorce. How your community property is divided depends a great deal on your circumstances. Cheating can influence how a judge may divide your property especially if you have a history of cheating and spending money in the process. For one, your spouse can do their best to figure out how much money you have spent on this other person. That money will almost certainly need to be reimbursed by you back to the community estate. If you don’t have the cash or the separate property to do so then the judge can order a disproportionate split of your community estate to make your spouse whole. Discretion is the better part of valor. Holding back on a relationship and taking things slowly may wind up being one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.