I get this question quite often from my clients. And, it is a topic I approach gently. For all of the obvious reasons, the majority of persons going through a divorce are very interested in moving on with their lives. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to assume that the person isn't already involved in an extramarital relationship (say perhaps the one that led to the divorce) and that the husband and wife are separated and not already divorced. I say I approach this gently because the introduction of a new love interest can pose a number of problems across different spectra of the post-separation divorce process.
First, early post separation dating (especially if it is discovered by the other party) is going to raise the specter of adultery. This will automatically put the other party on the defensive or more defensive than they already are. This may trigger a conference with the non-dating party's attorney; which in turn may trigger an investigation into the possibility that the relationship started before the parties separated. The decision to engage in this process may unnecessarily increase the cost of the divorce and clog the communication channels necessary for settlement with the emotional charge generated by the possibility of adultery. Speaking of adultery, occasionally one thing will lead to another and dating may result in a sexual relationship. Post separation adultery is the same as pre-separation adultery and can be a grounds for divorce. In addition, adultery, sodomy, and fornication are all still crimes in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and one doesn't want to make an already difficult situation more difficult by injecting a criminal charge into the mix (Note: the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Lawrence v. Texas may affect the enforceability of these statutes, but you don't want to be Virginia's test case do you?).
Emotions run even higher and further interfere with resolution when children are involved. No parent wants to even think about being replaced. And, no matter how much you assure the other party that the person is a fine, upstanding citizen, you will never convince the other party, in the short term, that this person should be having contact with the children. Most importantly, a parent needs to consider the feelings of the children. Some children will react negatively to the new love interest. Some will react negatively towards the parent with the new love interest. Even if the children respond positively, children will form bonds with a parent's new love interest so the interjection of a new player into their lives needs to be carefully considered. Even the most well adjusted child will be seriously affected by a divorce. Many times the first new boyfriend or girlfriend does not stick around very long which means that the children experience another loss close on the heels of or during the loss associated with the dissolution of their parents' marriage. Frankly, I instruct my clients that a love interest should not be introduced into the children's lives on any substantial basis until the relationship is very advanced and their is a reasonable certainly that this person is going to be in the children's lives for quite a while (such as a fiancee or a new spouse). Even at this advanced stage, one should never have the parent stay overnight while the children are in the home until the parent is married to the person. Many judges take very dim views of this sort of conduct and it can be outcome determinative in some local court rooms.
Lastly, the phenomenon of a "rebound" relationship is very real. Essentially, for a variety of reasons, haste, loss, grief, lust, need to make up for lost time, or due to a desire to move on to show the other party, a divorcee may rush into another relationship or marriage even without putting enough distance between their past divorce and the new relationship. Putting a bit of distance between relationships should give someone a better perspective of where they are in life. In addition, it may allow them to better navigate the divorce process. Decisions aren't made based on the desire to move on (although that is a valid consideration at times). I tell my clients that I love to see return business, but I just hope it the return business isn't for the purpose of helping them out of a second or subsequent failed marriage.
Marriage is a serious endeavor and not one to be taken lightly. Likewise, the decision to end a marriage is a serious endeavor and not one to be taken lightly.Give the process the respect it deserves no matter how bad the marriage was, who was at fault, or how desperate you are to move one. A healthy period of mourning (whether real or out of common courtesy) will go a long way towards allowing you and the other party to conclude the divorce process as financially and emotionally intact as one can be after going through the grind of a divorce.