Divorcing and Dating: New Mass. Bill Could Kill the Mood

Hi there,

The Twitterverse, (one of my favorite time wasters) and the news media in Massachusetts were a buzz yesterday as word spread that a State Senator filed on behalf of one of his constituents a bill that would ban parents from having sex in the former marital home before the finalization of the divorce. If the bill were to pass, it would require a divorcing party to obtain special permission from a judge in order to have sex with their new partner! It certainly won’t pass, and the mere concept is enough to cause near-terminal giggles, in this divorce lawyer at least.  But it does raise important issues: When should children learn that their parents are dating other people? When should children learn that a parent is in a serious relationship?

Divorce is tough on children. They need to go through the grieving process, just like their parents. And since, hopefully, they learned about the divorce after their parents, it’s going to take them longer to adjust. The parent/child dynamic is very different, of course, from the spouse dynamic. In the best-case scenario, parents will agree on when the kids should become aware the parents are dating. Then they should also agree on when they will let the kids know they are in a serious relationship, which probably should not occur until after the divorce. Kids are very literal — married means married in their minds — and a lot of parent/child problems can flow from doing this wrong.

Although the language of the bill seems silly, the general issue can easily be addressed by current legal measures. Last night one of my favorite local divorce attorneys was interviewed on TV about the bill, and she reminded viewers that if they are concerned that a significant other will be introduced too early in the divorce process, they should have their attorney ask the judge for an order to prevent this. Most judges are inclined to agree.