Dating after divorce can be exciting, and terrifying, and is often a milestone moment signifying that you are finally ready to move on with your life. When and how you re-enter the dating scene is up to you. But if your dating plans include setting up a profile on a dating website or app, here’s why, as a divorce attorney, I recommend that you proceed with extreme caution — or better yet — keep your dating life offline altogether. As many have learned the hard way, oversights and over-exaggerations on dating profiles can be an easy set up for post-divorce legal headaches.
Marcos’s experience is an unfortunate example of how dating profiles can lead to divorce disaster. As his divorce was coming to a close, Marcos decided to stick his toe back in the dating waters by setting up an account on a popular online dating site. It had been over a decade since Marcos had been “out there,” so curious about the competition, he began clicking through different profiles…and immediately felt intimidated. How did all these 40something guys have so much hair? And sports cars and huge houses…and since when did so many guys skydive?
Marcos was eager to move on from his painful split, so he made a decision. Would it really matter if he fudged a little on his profile and checked off a higher income bracket? He needed some impressive photos too, like all the other guys, so he splurged on new clothes, a new motorcycle…and some hair plugs…using money he had secretly stashed with his buddies until his divorce had blown over. As he put the finishing touches on his profile, his cursor hovered over the drop-down menu that asked about number of children. Marcos had a son and daughter, but he was lonely and didn’t want include anything that might turn off potential daters, so Marcos clicked 0, and then hit publish.
Almost immediately, Marcos started getting messages from interested dating partners. He was flattered to see how many times his profile was being checked out.
But when his phone rang one morning, it wasn’t his date from the previous evening calling to tell him what a good time she’d had. It was his divorce attorney calling to let him know that his soon-to-be ex-wife had sent screen shots of his entire dating profile to her attorney. She was outraged by the flaunting of wealth and the denial of having children, and had ripped up the divorce papers they were so close to signing. Instead, she was coming after him for increased alimony, a demand to audit for hidden assets, and decreased parenting time for Marcos with his “0” kids. A court date to present the dating site evidence to the judge had already been scheduled.
Marcos didn’t understand why his attorney sounded so concerned. Wouldn’t a judge laugh these accusations out of court? After all, doesn’t everyone stretch the truth a little on dating sites?
Here’s some cold hard truths: what you put out there about yourself matters, and can be used as evidence against you in your divorce — even if your divorce has already concluded! I have seen dating site evidence substantiate suspicions of hidden assets and force an audit, challenge existing child support or alimony amounts, and speak to character in child custody disputes. Think about it: if you and your ex are arguing over who deserves more parenting time, will stating publicly that you have no kids hurt or help your case? Does listing a salary in the six figures, but claiming a salary in divorce filings in the solid five figures mean you are lying on your dating profile — or lying in court? And if you are hiding assets, as Marcos’s photos seemed to flagrantly indicate, you are going to be in legal hot water from all sides.
Not too long ago, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers released a survey on dating sites and their role in divorce settlements. More than half of all attorneys who responded — 59 percent — cited an increase in the use of evidence from dating websites over the past few years. Not surprisingly, Match.com was the top website for online dating website evidence (64 percent of cases pulled evidence from the mega popular dating site), followed by eHarmony at 9 percent.
We are divorce attorneys, not dating coaches, but after seeing so many divorces become derailed by dating site activity, it indicates to me that discussing the legal downside to online dating is a conversation worth having.
Dating after divorce can be a way to feel like the gears of your life are finally starting to shift into forward motion. It’s fun and liberating! And this is not time to lay a legal trap for yourself. The divorce attorney-approved dating advice I give my clients? Try to stay off dating sites until the dust has truly settled in your divorce. (And please, never ever hide assets in the first place!) And secondly, if you do decide to create a public dating profile, be honest! So what if you haven’t been to the gym for a few years, or your crowning glory is long past its glory days? Be the exception that when you show up for your date, you actually look better than your photo!
When you stick to your own story—and show who YOU really are—not only can you defuse an upset ex looking to fan the flames, but you also give yourself a much better chance for making authentic connections with new potential dating partners. And as you move into this next chapter in life, that’s what is most important.
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