What happens if I start a new relationship after separation but before I am divorced?Dec 31, 2019
It is not unusual for clients to tell us that, since separating from their spouse, they have met someone else and have started a new relationship. Clients cannot be expected to put their life on hold while the divorce process is underway, but it is important that the implications of being in a new relationship are understood.
Firstly, it is often a surprise to people to learn that, although they have separated from their spouse, while they remain married if they are in a sexual relationship with their new partner (providing they are of the opposite sex), they are committing adultery. It would be possible for their spouse to commence divorce proceedings on the basis of that adultery, albeit that it has taken place following separation.
As the new relationship progresses, the client may wish to live with their new partner. This can have an effect on financial settlement. Living as a person on your own is generally accepted by the Court as being more expensive than when people live together and share household expenses. Also, it could be argued that housing needs have been met and this could change the outcome of a case. The financial outcome of a case is likely to be affected by a client living with a new partner, although each case turns on its own facts and the circumstances of cohabitation will be individual.
Living with a new partner can also have an effect on arrangements for children to stay overnight. Such a change can be unsettling for children and therefore has to be handled carefully and with the welfare of the children being the priority. When it is the right time for the children to move things forward, it is appropriate that your ex-spouse is informed of the move and where the children will be staying.
It has to be recognised by clients that for many ex-spouses, the fact that life has moved on is going to open up old wounds which can cause significant upset and can derail ongoing negotiations in relation to finances and arrangements for the children. Letting your ex-spouse know that you are in a new relationship is important, along with reassurance with regards to the time of introducing your children to a new partner.
Finally, be very careful with any social media posts. When great things are happening in our lives, we are often keen to tell the world, but please remember that saying through a solicitor that you are not in a relationship while having a social media account with a status change or photographs of you and your new partner on holiday/out and about with children may well cause problems in your case.
No one is expected to delay their future happiness throughout proceedings but how a client’s life moving on in that positive direction is announced, firstly to an ex-spouse and, secondly, to the world at large can be carefully managed with the right advice.