Am I Ready to Date after Divorce?

The divorce is over. The ink on the paperwork is dry, you’ve divided your property, and you’re officially on your own. Now what?

As far as the law is concerned, you are now legally single and can embark on things single people do, like dating. But are you really ready? And are there any legal implications you should know about before you jump into the dating game?

Are you emotionally ready to start dating again?

Although your divorce presented a cascade of uncertainties, dating is a whole new level of vulnerability. In some ways, the divorce process itself can be easier than healing and moving on.  But the good news is that some studies suggest that moving on and re-partnering after divorce is actually emotionally beneficial. 

After the ordeal of your divorce, you’re not sure if you’re ready to head out into another vast unknown. How do you know if you’re emotionally ready to date again?

You’ve taken time to consider the past and found some healing there.

That doesn’t mean you no longer feel the pain of your divorce. It just means that it no longer consumes your thoughts and your life.

You’re enjoying your new independence.

You’re finding joy and satisfaction in your newfound independence and self-sufficiency. You’re prioritizing yourself and your needs, maybe for the first time. 

You’ve learned some important lessons from the past.

You’ve reflected on your marriage objectively and now understand your ex’s role – and your own. You know what behaviors you don’t want to repeat in a new relationship or in your response to it. 

You’re setting realistic expectations for yourself and your future. 

You’ve taken time to think about what you’re looking for in the future and realize that it will take time and patience. Despite this, you’ve promised yourself you won’t accept less than you deserve

You’ve put time and effort into healing from the grief of your divorce.

Grieving the end of your marriage is an important part of your healing process. You have given yourself the time and space necessary to get through it. 

What does the grieving cycle or stages look like after a divorce?

Grief is a deeply emotional and painful reaction to loss. Whether you’re grieving the death of a loved one or the end of a marriage, it can present itself in several stages that will move you through the healing process. If you’re processing your own divorce, you’ve probably encountered several of these stages.

  • Denial: When confronted with the thought of your divorce, you can’t believe it. You hope your differences can still be smoothed over.
  • Anger: Reality hit, and you feel overwhelmed by anger and feelings of betrayal. Not only are you angry at your spouse, but you are also angry at yourself for not seeing what was happening.
  • Bargaining: In desperation, you begin to suggest all the possible ways you could save your marriage, only to be rejected.
  • Depression: You are overcome by staggering sadness and fear. You can’t even begin to imagine what the future holds or what you will do. 
  • Acceptance: You finally accept that your marriage is over. There is nothing you can do about it. You know it’s time to move on and reimagine a new future.

Dating after your divorce is a serious step. Having a clear understanding of your previous experiences, your current comfort level in your new life, and whether you’ve taken the time you need to heal can set the stage for dating and finding healthy and fulfilling new relationships.

What are the rules for dating during and after divorce?

In general, it’s best to avoid dating until after your divorce is finalized. It’s a personal choice that only you can decide, but be aware that you could face negative consequences if your ex finds out you’re seeing someone new before the ink is dry on your papers. 

Here are some ways dating before your divorce is final could work against you:

  • If you live in a fault state, your ex could cite your new relationship as a reason for your marriage’s demise.
  • If you decide to reconcile with your spouse, you will have a lot more work to do in rebuilding trust.
  • Your reputation could suffer. As much as you say, “I don’t care what others think,” or, “It’s none of their business,” people talk. And judge. Consider the potential career impact or negative reactions from your friends and family.

Once your divorce paperwork has been signed and you have your divorce decree, the rules are up to you. Dating after divorce can be challenging, though – especially if your feelings are still raw, you have ongoing conflicts with your ex, or you are dating again for the first time in years. 

There are things you can do to set your new dating life up for success, though. Let’s look at how to know you’re ready (and what to do to get back in the dating pool).

Legal and practical considerations if you decide to date before your divorce is final

After your divorce, you’re legally free to date. But dating before your divorce is final can present some serious legal and practical challenges you should think through. 

  • The court may consider adultery when deciding on the amount and duration of spousal support you would owe or are asking for. For example, in Georgia, if infidelity is proven as cause for the divorce, the cheating spouse could forfeit their spousal support rights.  Even if you live in a no-fault state, adultery can affect a court’s decisions on property division and child custody.
  • If you bought gifts or spent money on your dating partner, it could be considered a misuse of marital funds. Thus, it could be considered in your property division decision. For instance, in an equitable distribution state like Ohio, significant money spent on the other individual is sometimes considered a factor in property distribution awards.
  • In some states, like Mississippi, your spouse could actually sue your new partner under “alienation of affection” laws.
  • Your dating relationship could be considered detrimental to your children’s well-being and affect your rights to custody or visitation. Courts will consider the best interests of the children in custody matters, and if your outside interests are considered not in their best interests, it could affect a custody decision. Furthermore, your dating life could affect your ability to cooperate and negotiate with your spouse, making your divorce more contentious, costly, and time-consuming. 

Beyond the legal implications, there are also practical ones.

  • Dating before your divorce is final could impact your kids’ feelings of safety and stability or create negative feelings between you. This could further complicate your parenting and co-parenting arrangements.
  • You’ll also need to consider discretion and privacy. Today’s dating game may be a far different one than the last time you were out there. The information you share on dating apps and social media could potentially have an impact on your personal and professional life.

Dating before your divorce is final will be a balancing act between personal desires and legal and practical realities. Before you decide to date during your divorce, give it some thoughtful and careful consideration. 

How long should you wait to date after a divorce?

There is no hard and fast rule, but there are certain signs you are (or are not) ready to date after your divorce. The number-one way to know you are ready is if it just feels right, but here are some questions to ask yourself to help you know if you are ready.

Have I been taking care of myself?

You know the saying, “You can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself.” It’s true – at least if you want a healthy, fulfilling relationship. 

Spending time reflecting on the reasons your marriage ended and what you need (and can’t tolerate) from new partners is a big step toward finding love again.

Did I fully grieve the loss of my marriage?

Even the worst marriage is still a loss. Your old life is gone, and you have a new identity. Taking time to honor the good and let go of the relationship that ended is essential for opening yourself to new love.

Adjust to your new normal, and prepare your heart to love again with help from an online support group geared toward moving on after divorce. Try Circles online and app support groups.

Am I working through negative feelings toward my ex?

You may not be totally over the hurt, but you should have at least started making progress toward healing. Would you want to go out with someone who constantly talks about their ex or trash-talks them when they do come up? It’s best to keep conversations positive and focused on the future, not the past (at least not your past relationships). If you can’t overcome bitter feelings about your ex, it may not be time to meet someone new.

Will I be dating for the right reasons?

Don’t start dating again to appease others’ expectations. Even years after your divorce, you might not feel ready, and that’s okay. Don’t date just because other people tell you that you should or because someone is interested in you and you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

You also shouldn’t date just to fill a void, to have financial support, or because you are lonely. Look inward and nurture your relationship with yourself and your friends and family before you seek a connection with a romantic partner. 

The goal should be an improved partnership, right? While settling for some companionship might help temporarily, you’re setting yourself up for long-term disappointment if you go into a relationship to “fix” something. 

Do I have enough time and money to go on dates?

This is a practical one. Do you have free time and someone who can watch the kids or pets when you want to go out? Can you afford the costs of going out? (Don’t assume your date will pay.) These may be small matters, but they’re worth considering if your finances are different now that you are on your own.

Dating after divorce when you have kids

Of course, if you have children (especially minors or adult children living with you), dating is a little more complicated. While dating is a personal choice, a new person in your life can impact your kids. 

Studies show that kids experience a variety of emotions when a parent begins to date after divorce. Like you, they are also grieving the loss of the family unit in their own way. 

Be mindful of their feelings, boundaries, and time. It’s best to be honest with them without oversharing. For example, it’s good to tell them your date’s name and where you are going but not all the details about how you are feeling and all the things you are doing together. Your child might feel like you are abandoning them or that you like this new person more. They might also be strongly siding with your ex … or even hoping for a reconciliation.

Do what you can to ensure they feel comfortable. You may not want to introduce someone to them until it gets serious. Be sensitive to their feelings and personal space, too. If you’re thinking of inviting a new dating partner into your home or along for outings, talk to them about it first to gauge if they are ready for it. 

Read: Understanding and Protecting Kids’ Mental Health in Divorce

What happens if your child responds negatively to your dating life or a new dating partner?

After divorce, you’ll be trying to balance your own needs with those of your kids. And your kids may be feeling some serious discomfort about your dating life or dating partners. Depending on your child and their age and maturity level, this can manifest in different behaviors and require age-appropriate responses from you. 

Young kids (ages 4 to 6)

Younger children don’t know how to verbalize their concerns or regulate their emotions. Seeing you date can make them afraid of losing your love or even losing you to someone else. They might react with clingy behavior or tantrums in response. You’ll need to reinforce your love and commitment in simple terms. 

For example, you could say, “I know that seeing me with someone besides your mom/dad makes you feel really uncomfortable. And that’s normal and okay. Right now, they’re just a friend that makes me happy, just like your friends make you happy. You’re the most important thing to me, and that will never change.”

Elementary-age kids (ages 7 to 12)

Kids in this age group can better express themselves verbally, and this may result in questions, jealousy, or outright disapproval. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, and validate their concerns. Explain that it’s okay not to like some people, but they will still need to be respectful. Plan activities together that your kids can enjoy, but don’t force a relationship. Let it happen organically.

You might say, “You seem unhappy or upset when I spend time with [insert name]. Tell me how you’re feeling so I can understand. It’s okay if you’re not sure about [name]. Me too. That’s why, right now, we’re just hanging out together.”

Teenagers (ages 13 to 18)

Teens can react by withdrawing, criticizing, or even with open hostility. At this point, they may use this time to express loyalty to your ex. At this age, you can be more honest and forthright. Acknowledge that it’s okay for them to feel this way, and share your own feelings about dating and why you’re trying to move on. Assure them that your dating life will never interfere with your relationship with them. 

For example, you could start by saying, “I’ve noticed that you don’t seem to like [insert name] much. I get it. It must feel really weird seeing me date other people. Believe me, it has been weird for me, too. Let’s talk about it. You can come to me anytime when you’re feeling like this, and I’ll be glad to listen and try to understand.”

Post-divorce dating tips

Okay, so you’ve decided you are ready to date again. Here are some tips to get back out there and hopefully meet someone you’re excited about.

Try a dating app

Dating apps and websites are a comfortable way to scope out the dating scene. Read our review of many popular dating websites and apps here.

Get out and do social things you enjoy

Of course, the old-fashioned ways still work, too – attending social events, going out to bars or coffee shops, and meeting others through friends. But dating apps can be an easier way to connect with others looking to date. They also allow for greater transparency about being divorced and what your deal-breakers are.

Protect your personal information

While sharing some information is necessary, never share sensitive information at first. This includes your full name, your address, where you work, or your phone number. Be careful of any photos you share that could reveal some of this information. 

Only use trusted platforms

Only use well-known and trusted dating apps, and know what their targeted demographic is. Research their privacy policies and how they protect your personal data. When you do go ahead and set up a profile, only use their in-app messaging for communication so you don’t share your phone number or email address. 

Be careful about the identity of matches

You’re right to remain suspicious when it comes to online dating. Avoid profiles with minimal details or only one photo. You can do a reverse image search of a profile photo to see where it’s been used elsewhere online. Always arrange a video call before you meet in person. This can help you confirm their identity and give you a better sense of who they are.

Trust your instincts

If something feels “off” about a person or conversation, listen to your gut. Unfortunately, scammers use online dating platforms to find lonely people who might be more vulnerable to their agendas.

Plan a safe first meeting

When you do plan to meet in person, choose a busy public place. Let a friend or family member know who you’re meeting, where you’re going, and when you’ll be back. Use your own car, and stay sober. 

Familiarize yourself with an app’s safety features

Understand how the app protects you if you feel unsafe because of another user. How can you block or report them? Maintain strong privacy settings and regularly review them to understand and control what’s visible to others. 

While online dating is convenient and opens opportunities to meet people, staying safe should be your ultimate priority. 

Set expectations

Do you want to date more casually so you have someone to do fun activities with? Or are you looking for your next life partner? The app you use or the people you’re open to might differ greatly. Consider the end goal before you sit across from each other on that first date so you aren’t disappointed later (or struggling to break away from someone who is way more invested in you).

Keep nurturing your uncoupled life. Divorce may have forced you outside your comfort zone and into a much more independent role. Hopefully, you learned a lot about yourself and set post-divorce goals that have nothing to do with a romantic relationship. Loving yourself and being okay with solo time sets you up for the kind of love you want and deserve from your next partner.


Consequences of Dating for Post-Divorce Maternal Well-Being. (June 13, 2016). Journal of Marriage and Family.  
Co-Parenting: Dating When You Have Children. (August 2019). Oklahoma State University, Ferguson College of Agriculture.
Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.