A few weeks ago
the classified personals contained an ad that read,
"Male 53, unhappily married,
divorce pending, seeks slim, unattached female, 40-55, for long-term,
caring relationship. Call . . . "
It made me think of the hundreds of cases I've seen in
divorce court in which one of the spouses became intimately involved with
someone new before the divorce was final. Those cases were horribly
acrimonious and expensive because there is very little that can turn a
divorce case into a thermonuclear war quite like the involvement of one
spouse with a new companion.
New Mexico has had no-fault divorce since 1933, so the
Courts are not much interested in who is the good-spouse or the
bad-spouse. That won't make any difference in how property is divided, and
it won't change other aspects of the financial divorce.
However, these new
relationships may be relevant to custody and visitation decisions. One
thing is for sure, if a parent becomes involved with someone new, the
children should not be involved in that new relationship. If they do
involve the children, they should expect to hear about it in court. The
court's concern will be about emotional damage to the children, not the
Psychological and sociological data tell us that an
intimate relationship which starts before a divorce is finalized has very
little chance of long-term survival. The new companion may be serving
primarily as a distraction, a way to avoid feeling the pain that divorce
When the new
relationship dissolves, as it almost certainly will, the children
experience another loss, if they've been made a part of that relationship.
Children who suffer a series of losses can end up with a sense that it is
not safe to develop close relationships. That can impact all of their
friendships as well as their own future attitudes about marriage.
Mistrust, isolation and loneliness are high prices for
children to pay for their parents' bad judgement.
People in the throes of a
divorce are wise to avoid any intimate relationships until well after the
divorce is final.
They can save themselves a lot
of aggravation and legal fees, if nothing else. But whatever the grown-ups
do to themselves, they should absolutely avoid introducing any new
companions to their children until the divorce is over and until there is
a solid foundation for the new relationship with some reasonable degree of
probability that it will last.
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