You're separated from your soon-to-be-former spouse, and now you're wondering: is it acceptable for me to date?
I wish I had an easy yes or no answer for you, but each situation is different. Some people may be available to date easily, and others? Not so much. There is one thing I can say with absolute certainty on the subject and that is this: whether you are divorcing with kids, without kids, or have been married a long time or simply a few years, no one is ready to be serious with ANYONE right after a separation.
Sure, you could be ready to have fun, have sex, and casually date, but you are no one's Mrs. Right until you have taken time to assess yourself, your failed marriage, and where you are going in life. Not to mention, you need to heal. You may feel completely over someone, but the fact is it takes time to unravel yourself from a marriage.
Here are some indicators/rules you can go by to determine whether you are ready to casually date vs. whether you are not ready to casually date.
Do You Have Kids? A Few Things to Consider:
If you have kids, you need to be super mindful of any dating you do post-separation and divorce. This is not the time for kids to be meeting anyone. They still need to grieve the loss of the family unit as they once knew it.
You also may want to be careful whom you bring your children around, as your ex can use this against you in divorce proceedings.
Are the two of you waged in a bitter custody battle? Are you fighting over money? Don't get involved in a relationship right now. You need to focus on getting through and helping your kids cope with all the stress that the above things bring on children.
When You Shouldn't:
Your Ex Is Vindictive or Angry About the Separation
Whether you have kids or not, if you have an angry or upset ex, you better stay away from dating until things have calmed down. In my state of residence, the court does not care about extramarital affairs typically, but other states do. You do not want to be accused of an affair. Also, you don't want to invite a completely innocent person to the "party" only to have to deal with a livid ex.
You and Your Ex Are Battling Over Money
Casual dating is fine in this case, but if someone gets seriously involved with you, your ex can use this as leverage against you potentially receiving more money in the divorce. Your ex can state that this person's involvement in your life lowers your bills or that you two could be cohabitating.
You Are Distraught Over the Split
If you are inconsolable over the impending divorce and have considered dating, don't do it! Most likely, you are looking for someone to soothe your pain. This is a relationship recipe for disaster. If you want to opt for a casual sexual relationship, well then you are well within your rights to do so, but remember: you are a hot mess right now, which is to be expected. You might want to hold off on any romantic or sexual situations, period.
You Are Ready but Your Child Is Struggling
If you feel ready to date but your child is struggling, this is a situation in which you absolutely must wait for your child to know anything about your dating life. Your child doesn't need to hear about, know about, or meet anyone you might casually or more than casually be spending time with. Truthfully, getting your kid through this is the most important thing right now, so dating should take a back seat. This doesn't mean you should neglect yourself — see friends, exercise, engage in hobbies, etc. — but that you should put dating low on the priority list or put it on hold for now altogether.
When It Might Be OK:
You and Your Ex Mutually Decided to Divorce
If you both decided to divorce, you may be ready to set sail into casual dating territory without any trouble during proceedings.
You Are Happy Over the Split
If you are over the moon about the split, go ahead — date to your heart's content! But still — be wary of jumping into anything serious. You are not relationship material just yet.
Bottom line? I think dating before the divorce is final is fine if it's casual, but anything serious is not recommended. You would be surprised at how the divorce process could go. Your ex could start out amicable and kind to you and end up being an entirely different way. When there is money, property, and potentially children's lives at stake in divorce, you really ought to be cautious before getting involved with someone.
Most importantly, for the people who may date you, you are in some ways a heartbreak hazard for them. You could decide to go back to your ex! So until that divorce is final, you could risk hurting someone else. If you truly feel healed and "done" with your marriage, that's one thing, but if you aren't, you need to take a rest from dating until you feel ready to show your best face. Do you want to enter the dating scene a mess? No. You want to enter the scene ready to have fun and meet quality people, and if you are not altogether yourself, then you will not meet good matches, period.