When a married couple separate they usually both want to move on with their lives and often this involves either or both of them finding new partners. It is not uncommon for me to meet with a new client who has come in to enquire about divorce proceedings and they have already found someone else. Many think that their new relationship is nothing to do with their estranged spouse and that it should have no bearing on their divorce case but this is not strictly true.
The first thing to consider is that if no divorce proceedings have been initiated by either party (meaning that they are still legally married) then if one spouse discovers that the other is in a new relationship they might indicate an intention to divorce them on the basis of their adultery. Many people might feel that it is unfair for them to be described as an “adulterer” once they have decided that their marriage has permanently come to an end but in the eyes of the law, intercourse with another person whilst still married is classed as adultery.
Secondly, where there are children the involvement of a new partner can become a highly contentious issue, particularly where one spouse has not recovered from the heartache of the separation. I have met with many parents who have strongly objected to their estranged spouse or ex-partner spending time with their children if the new partner is going to have any involvement. Usually, my advice is that a new partner should not be introduced to the children in the early days of a relationship, particularly if the breakdown of the marriage has been very recent. A parent who has a new partner should be confident that it is going to be a serious and long lasting relationship and they should definitely be confident that their new partner poses no risk to the children before introducing them. The last thing that either parent wants is for the children to be exposed to yet another relationship breakdown or any form of harm. Also, children should not be encouraged to refer to a new partner as “mummy” or “daddy”. Not only does this fan the flames in an acrimonious separation, it is also confusing for the children and I have seen cases where children have had to undergo therapy to deal with this issue.
Finally, when it comes to dealing with the finances as part of the divorce proceedings then one of the factors that the Court considers is needs. If you have not yet resolved financial matters and you meet a new partner then this will need to be disclosed as part of the negotiations or as part of court proceedings. There are numerous cases where one person has successfully argued that the other does not need so much financial provision as they otherwise would have done because they now have a new partner that they can rely upon for financial provision. If that relationship has been ongoing for a considerable time before the financial case comes to be dealt with or if there is cohabitation with the new partner then the argument can hold more weight, but even in cases where there is no cohabitation, the new relationship can be taken into account.
People should therefore be aware that merely because their marriage has broken down, it is not necessarily sensible for them to start afresh with a new partner until all matters including the divorce and finances have been resolved. If you are concerned about the impact that a new relationship could have on your own divorce case, you should speak to a family lawyer.
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