Divorce is often challenging and lonely. The temptation to start dating, to have something new and exciting in your life, makes perfect sense. But should you? And if you do, what effect might it have on your children and custody issues?
In Texas, until the divorce decree is signed, you are still married. Any type of dating could be considered adultery and, depending on the circumstances, have an impact on your custody and visitation rights.
When it comes to divorce and custody, the primary concern in Texas is always the best interest of the child. There are two parts to custody: conservatorship and possession. Conservatorship refers to decision-making for the child – physical care, medical decisions, education, daily routine, and the like. Possession refers to a parent’s physical custody or visitation rights.
State law does not favor one sex over the other in awarding either conservatorship or possession. Each can be sole or jointly shared between the parents. While parties can agree to conservatorship rights and possession schedules, the court can also make its own decision based on the best interest of the children.
Courts consider a number of factors when evaluating a child’s best interest. These include, but are not limited to:
- Child’s physical, psychological, and emotional needs
- Parents’ ability to prioritize the child’s well-being
- Any instances of danger or neglect
- Cooperation between parents
- Stability of each home
- Past parental involvement, including who has been the primary caregiver
- Child’s wishes, if the child is age 12 or older
The Bitter Spouse
You and your spouse may seem to be sailing through the divorce process with ease, until your soon-to-be-ex learns you are dating and becomes angry or jealous. An upset spouse can challenge both conservatorship and possession, and turn what may have seemed to be an agreed-upon arrangement into a contested process.
In the eyes of your ex, and possibly those of the court, it may not be in the best interest of your child to introduce a new party during this emotionally difficult time. The new relationship could be seen as confusing for your child, particularly because romantic relationships begun during the divorce process often end up being temporary.
What Are Your Priorities?
Your judgment and priorities might be questioned: Are you putting your short-term satisfaction above the long-term best interests of your kids? Are you so involved in this new relationship that it is affecting your parenting? A relationship that causes you to spend less time with your children or to make decisions that negatively affect them could have an impact on custody outcomes.
If your new love at all endangered your child or has a past history of violence, you could be jeopardizing both custody and visitation rights. Same goes if your child witnessed your infidelity.
Your Child’s Opinion
Your spouse might not be the only one distressed by you dating someone else before the divorce is final. Your child might also be upset or troubled by your new relationship. Not only could your son or daughter see you as trying to quickly replace their other parent, but they might also feel neglected when you devote time and attention to a new love. Remember, the court considers your child’s emotional and psychological well-being along with their physical needs when evaluating custody.
In Texas, if your child is 12 years old or older, their preference matters. Your 12-year-old might decide they don’t want to live with you if it means dealing with your new suitor. The court will consider your child’s request and could end up granting their wishes.
Save the Dating for Later
While Texas law doesn’t specifically address dating during divorce, your best bet is to save the dating until the ink on your divorce decree is dry and avoid jeopardizing your custody or visitation rights. Remember, you are considered married until the divorce is final. Dating during the process could be considered adultery and factored into any custody decisions.
OUR DIVORCE ATTORNEYS CAN HELP WITH CUSTODY QUESTIONS
Divorce is challenging, but with Alexandra Geczi LLC, you are not alone. Our attorneys are here to help you discreetly navigate the process and protect your interests so that you can move forward into a bright, bold future. Contact us today at 214-974-4449.