It is not unusual to think about starting a new relationship whilst you are in divorce proceedings. It is important however that you think carefully about any repercussions before rushing into something. In this series of blogs, we are going to think about the consequences on the legal proceedings, your family and finally the emotional impact of beginning a new relationship before you are divorced.
In this, the first post in the series, we are going to look at the legal consequences of new relationships and divorce.
The divorce proceedings
Most people understand that adultery is a basis for divorce. In my experience, what people don’t realise is that they are committing adultery even if the new relationship didn’t start until after they separated from their spouse, regardless of the amount of time that has passed. Your spouse could petition for divorce on this basis and there is even the risk that they could name your new partner in the petition. From a purely legal point of view, the basis on which a divorce is sought is largely a means to an end and has no impact on decisions made in relation to the children or finances, but you may feel upset or aggrieved if your spouse seeks a divorce on the basis of a new relationship that started long after you agreed that the marriage is over.
Let me answer a common concern first – no, if you are in a new relationship your spouse can not make any claims over your new partner’s assets or income.
Your new partner’s financial position is however relevant in so far as it affects your needs. If you are sharing a home, or likely to share a home in the near future, the court will assume that your partner will contribute to the running of that home. It may therefore only be reasonable to include half of any household costs in your outgoings. If you are seeking maintenance from your spouse this will reduce your needs and the amount you are likely to be awarded. If your spouse is seeking maintenance from you, this will increase the portion of your income available for the court to make an order over.
Your spouse may have capital assets that the court could reasonably assume are going to be at your disposal to meet your needs. For example, if you have moved into your spouse’s home which they own, your housing needs may be met.
I believe that it is better for families if a couple can work their way through the divorce process themselves, without resorting to expensive court proceedings which can be emotionally devastating. To do this, you need your spouse’s cooperation.
It is worth considering the emotional reaction your spouse may have to the revelation that you have met someone else, before the legalities to end your marriage have concluded. They may be shocked and hurt, even angry, that you have moved on so quickly. This reaction can on occasion have a significant impact on the legal proceedings. They may wonder why they should make things easy for you and be less inclined to cooperate so that the process runs smoothly. We often see legal proceedings hit a bump in the road because one of the spouses has found out about a new relationship and reacts by making emotional, rather than rational, decisions.