can-iThis question comes up more often than you might think. While divorce lawyers are categorically not in the habit of doling out dating advice, it deserves some time, attention and a complete answer.

There are two specific instances in which dating someone before your divorce is finalized can complicate your life. The first of these has to do with child custody. If there’s a child involved, and you’re trying to win custody, then like it or not, you are under a very high-powered microscope.

If the divorce is a contentious one, and many cases where children are involved are, then your soon-to-be ex-spouse will likely use any and every means available to deny you custody. If the person you’re dating has any skeletons lurking in his or her closet, you can expect that they will come out and be used against you.

Even if he or she doesn’t, you can expect that an angered and embittered soon-to-be ex-spouse will try to paint you in an immoral light to attempt to deny you custody. Neither of these things are absolutely guaranteed to occur, of course. But again, if you’re looking at playing the odds, those are the realities you’re facing.

The second area in which dating can have a big impact is the area of spousal support. Again, the more contentious the divorce proceeding is, the more likely that your soon-to-be ex will try to use the fact that you’re dating against you, in this case, to reduce, or perhaps even eliminate the amount of spousal support you receive.

The other aspect worth mentioning here is that there are feelings involved on both sides. As the divorce proceeding grinds on, those feelings are bound to get raw, which means that even if the divorce starts out amicably, as time passes, it can turn unexpectedly contentious. This is especially true if you start dating, and it is suddenly made clear that you are, in fact, moving on with your life.

In general, it’s best to wait until your divorce is finalized before starting a new relationship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, and it certainly happens quite frequently. If you do, just be sure you talk about its potential impact on your case with your divorce attorney.