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Using dating app risky during divorce: Benmor

Separating spouses should stay clear of dating apps until the divorce is finalized, Toronto family lawyer and mediator Steven Benmor tells

Benmor, principal of Benmor Family Law Group, says it's perfectly healthy for both parties to move on with their romantic lives, but warns that the public nature of dating apps can cause issues in ongoing divorce proceedings.

“What dating apps can do is to drive the conflict that then prevents people from settling their affairs following separation because of the infuriation, embarrassment, and sense of betrayal it can cause,” he says. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t date, but I think the safest route is to avoid any public pronouncements that might inhibit the process leading to a divorce settlement.

“It takes anywhere from three to 12 months to settle a divorce, and I think that’s a reasonable waiting period before going public,” Benmor adds.

Still, there are exceptions depending on the specific circumstances of the individual and their relationship history, he admits.

“If you’ve got two people who have decided to move on, and both are dating, it’s unlikely to be a problem,” Benmor says.  

But that’s not the reality in most situations, he says, explaining that one party is typically driving the divorce, having decided to end the marriage weeks, months, or even years before informing their partner of their feelings.

“If you’re the person who has made the decision to divorce a long time ago, you may have started thinking about life after your spouse, and it’s not uncommon in this day and age to go on a dating website," Bennmor says. “Some will lurk and look and others will sign up and maybe put a photo online. Not everyone is particularly tech-savvy, and they may inadvertently make their profile available to anyone who wants to see it.”

The trouble comes when the husband or wife finds out about the profile, he says, especially if the discovery occurs before their spouse has told them they want to end the marriage, setting an acrimonious tone for the subsequent divorce proceedings.  

“It’s not uncommon for a family member or co-worker to alert a spouse to their partner’s dating app profile, which is a shuddering and embarrassing experience for someone who doesn’t know their marriage is falling apart,” Benmor says.

Even if a discussion has occurred and the separation process is underway, he says the revelation that one spouse is “putting themselves out there” can elicit an emotional response from an ex-partner.

“At the very time that reason is supposed to apply in terms of figuring out the future for their kids, their house and their lives, one person’s dating profile can become a major emotional obstacle that gets in the way of reaching a logical and rational settlement,” Benmor says. “There’s nothing inherently wrong about the dating app, or dating post-separation, but it can severely encumber the process of getting to a speedy and fair resolution.”

In certain extreme circumstances, the content of a dating website profile can even impinge on the legal proceedings between former couples, he warns.

“Not everyone is entirely honest on their profiles when communicating about their marital status, their children, or age,” Benmor says. “If there are lies on there, a mediator, lawyer, or a judge may take that into account when considering the reliability of an individual’s statements about their income, assets, and relationship with their children.”

And while infidelity has no legal consequences for a party other than providing grounds for divorce, he says a person’s proven presence on a dating app before the end of their marriage could still have an impact on their case.      

“It’s not going to change your right to support or your obligation to pay it, the division of property, or parenting time, but it does affect the optics and the emotions of the people behind the decision-making,” Benmor says.

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