Dating during divorce-- Out of the frying pan and into the fire

By Marie E. Matyjaszek

Law Office of Robert Matyjaszek

For some people, waiting six months or even two months for their judgment of divorce to enter is hard, especially when they want to indulge their romantic side.

Finding someone new to listen to your concerns (or more likely bad-mouth your soon-to-be ex) is such a wonderful feeling.

But, the questions remain - when can you start looking for that special guy who will indulge your shoe and purse fetish?

Does the court care (about the guy, not the shoes; of course the court thinks your shoes are fabulous)? And what about the kids?

Many people assume that if someone picks up a new love interest right after the divorce has been filed, that she's been cheating all along - and they could be dead-on.

In other cases, it's amazing what taking off that wedding band does to some people - the number of digits they get in a bar increases and friends immediately start playing matchmaker.

After all, half of finding Mr. Right is timing.

As I've mentioned before, Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, but the court can look at fault for the purpose of spousal support and property division.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has addressed dating during a divorce in a number of cases throughout the years.

In Knowles v. Knowles, 185 Mich. App. 497 (1990), the court reversed a trial judge's 70 percent wife/30 percent husband split of the parties' property because the husband had allegedly had an affair.

However, his tryst began after the marriage had broken down, and "it was improper for the trial court to hold divorcing parties to a standard of morality or behavior appropriate for marital partners."

Knowles was differentiated in a 2000 ruling, with the Court of Appeals stating that if a wife had begun "her relationship with the other man before [her husband] filed for divorce and before [she] vacated the marital home, the evidence was properly admissible on the issue of fault." See Repasky v. Repasky, Docket No. 212859.

The court has reiterated its past decisions that " '[t]he focus must be on the conduct of the parties leading up to the separation rather than on who left whom.'" See Roberts v. Roberts, Docket No. 238610.

When parties separate or file for divorce, it's clear that their intent is to live individual lives, but not necessarily alone.

This doesn't mean it's a good idea - regardless of how little your former man supported your Louis Vuitton habit, no one escapes a divorce completely unscathed, even if you can shop without harassment afterwards.

Take some time to make sure you're ready to move on, and if you have kids, think of them first and choose wisely.

Don't try to make your new friend a substitute dad - this never helps any relationship.

Maybe some guys like the "just add water" instant family, but most men that I know stay away from drama about the same distance that I am from cleaning the litter box.

So, the take-away message is this: You can date and live it up as a single lady once you're separated or have filed for divorce, but unlike those amazing 4-inch stilettos, there are no refunds on a rebound boyfriend.

Besides, you still look good attempting to walk in those shoes all by yourself.

The author is an associate attorney at the Law Office of Robert Matyjaszek PLLC, Jackson, Michigan.

She can be reached at (517) 787-0351 or by emailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.

Published: Thu, Jun 24, 2010

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