Getting Engaged Before the Divorce is Final

Are you in new relationship and talking about marriage before your divorce is final? If so, you may have a few questions about how soon is too soon. Take a peek at all of the advice below.

The Question: He’s still married, should I start planning the wedding?

I recently became engaged to a man who was previously married. I would like to begin plans for my wedding however he is still legally married and currently obtaining a divorce. Is it appropriate for me to be planning a wedding at this time and even more important is it appropriate to be “engaged” to someone who is not legally available. Please help with my sticky situation. He thinks this is acceptable I’m not so sure and wonder what the rules of etiquette are in this situation. I would rather obey the rules of etiquette and call off the engagement until it is proper rather than continue to plan for a wedding.

Our Answer

You’re right to be concerned. It isn’t proper for the two of you to be officially engaged until he is legally divorced.

How could you possibly plan a wedding day if you are unsure about when the divorce will be final? If you plan and something happens with his paperwork and his divorce is not final by the date you have planned then you’ll be on the hook for all sorts of deposits. You will not be able to be legally married by a justice of the peace nor by any clergy either so why risk this?

If the relationship is solid, time will not be a problem. Get the divorce taken care of and then start planning the future together.

The Question: Is it wrong to get engaged before the divorce is final?

I have been going through a rough divorce for over a year now and have met an amazing woman who wants to get engaged. My wife is trying to hold out in settling the divorce as long as she can. Is bad for me to get engaged while still going through this divorce?  Importantly, my wife has already moved on with another man.

Our Answer

It seems the real question is whether you can go public with the engagement or not. That’s a good question. For a married person, whether you are close to being divorced or not you should not declare yourself engaged. It is poor etiquette and moreso it is just going to raise more questions from family and friends. Settle your divorce and then you are free to go for it.

The Question: Is it legal to get engaged before your divorce is final?

Our Answer

Is it legal to get engaged before your divorce is final? Yes it is. The main reason being that engagements has no legal significance or consequence. In saying that, if you get engaged while still married, it could have an impact on your divorce outcome.

If you believe that your husband or wife is going to be upset knowing that you are going to marry someone else and that you are engaged to this person, then it is possible that your divorce will not proceed as quickly, easily, and cheaply as it could have if you did not disclose this information. Things get even more complicated if you have children. We’ve seen spouses raise resistance when it comes to custody and visitation when they hear of an engagement (or even dating).

There can also be real financial consequences to getting engaged while still married. For example, have you established joint bank accounts with this person? Have you spent money on this person that was earned before you separated from your spouse? Are you living with your significant other in the same residence in which you and your spouse used to reside? Is your significant other supporting you in any way? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, there may be a negative financial impact on how much you receive in the division of the community estate as well as the spousal support you may be entitled to receive.

Other Expert Opinions On Engagements & Remarriage

“Can you talk about tough stuff? Can you disagree and find a route to working it out and still like each other? Are the things that you have come to see about your partner which annoy you tolerable enough and are they heavily outweighed by the things you like in them? In other words, you lessen the likelihood of divorce if you spend enough time being in the relationship that you’ve had time to test what real day-to-day life is like. For most couples, this is likely a minimum of one year.

Whether the dating was one year followed by a short engagement — or the dating was shorter but the engagement lasted a year — seems less important than having this significant period of time testing the relationship. As hard as it is to end an engagement, it is much easier and less painful than ending a marriage. Of course there are exceptions, couples who rushed from first sight straight down the aisle, that are happy. But they are few, and most likely, a little older with a history of enough serious relationships to have more personal insight into what they are looking for in their partner.” – eHarmony

“Date two years before deciding to marry; then date your future spouse’s children before the wedding. Dating two years gives you time to really get to know one another. Too many relationships are formed on the rebound when both people lack godly discernment about their fit with a new person. Give yourself plenty of time to get to know each other thoroughly. Keep in mind—and this is very important—that dating is inconsistent with remarried life.

Even if everything feels right, dramatic psychological and emotional shifts often take place for children, parents, and stepparents right after the wedding. What seems like smooth sailing can become a rocky storm in a hurry. Don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t experience difficulties. As one parent said, “Falling in love is not enough when it comes to remarriage; there’s just more required than that.”

When you do become serious about marriage, date with the intention of deepening the stepparent/stepchild relationships. Young children can attach themselves to a future stepparent rather quickly, so make sure you’re serious before spending lots of time together. Older children will need more time (research suggests that the best time to remarry is before a child’s tenth birthday or after his/her sixteenth; couples who marry between those years collide with the teen’s developmental needs).” – Family Life

Other Helpful Resources