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So you're finally divorced. You've been through the wringer. Disputes with the ex, court appearances, and making sure the kids are okay. For the first time since you can remember everyone is okay, including you. You're ready. Ready to date with a seriousness of purpose, and eager to welcome someone new into your life. But the question remains: Who is that person?

As you venture into dating, you will no doubt come across individuals who are at varying stages of the divorce process, including those who are separated and not yet divorced. Whether a friend introduces you, you meet potential love interests online, or you strike up some friendly conversation with a stranger at the park, everyone you meet will have a unique story how they came to where they are and what it means to be there.

If you have been dating for a while, you may already have thoughts about whether or not you should date someone who isn't officially divorced. Perhaps you have been "burned" before by a love interest not ready to get serious, or left by someone who wanted to give his or her marriage another try. Or maybe you have been warned by others "who know better" to steer clear of those who remain tied to their exes.

These examples each speak loud and clear to why we shouldn't date someone who is separated and are valid reasons to be cautious when entering a relationship with a person still entangled legally, emotionally, and financially with their spouse. However, there are advantages to dating someone separated that you may not have thought of before. And despite being able to cite instances about how dating someone separated didn't work out, there are plenty of occasions when it did.

An individual who is separated might still be in "marriage mode," meaning he or she remains familiar with and enjoys the comforts of married life, just not their own. They may simply be looking to improve upon the situation they currently have with someone who is a better fit for them.

Someone who hasn't spent much time dating may also be less jaded than a person who has been out on countless dates where nothing ever seems to work out.

If a potential date is embroiled in the divorce process and has been for years, has been dating throughout much of that time, and is very close to finalizing their divorce, they are likely more relationship ready than someone who has been out on three dates with three different people since moving out of the house.

Independently assessing every scenario is key.

How long an individual is separated is only one way to evaluate whether or not the person you are meeting is looking for the same level of depth as you are. How and why their marriage is ending is equally as important. Was there infidelity? Was there abuse? Was there a mutual decision to split? Each of these factors can play a role in gauging someone's emotional maturity and readiness for a relationship. Anyone who has been the victim of abuse of any kind or dealt with infidelity in their marriage (whether their own or spouse's) knows how long it can take to make sense of these experiences and move past them in a healthy way.

It's important to note that just because there is a decade between them and their divorce and that their split was amicable doesn't mean a person is ready, willing, and able to offer you the meaningful relationship you desire. Instead, it merely indicates that some of the obstacles to having such a relationship don't exist. There may be and likely are other obstacles. But until you get to know someone better, you won't know. The point is there is no definitive way to determine whether or not someone is in the same "place" as you are and that they are looking for the type of relationship you want before actually dating them. Even if they want a serious relationship, it's important to recognize that they may not want a serious relationship with you .

After scratching the surface, being separated, divorced, or never married are titles with a multitude of factors underlying them. Everyone has a story waiting to be told, a story that you will need to evaluate as time goes on. A situation that may be right for you may not be right for another and vice versa.

Regardless of where a potential love interest stands and the road he or she took to get there, it's important to remember that your decision to date that person is not about them. It's about you.

Stacey Freeman is a writer and blogger from the New York City area, a divorced single mom, a lifestyle editor at , and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC, a full-service consultancy dedicated to providing high-quality content to individuals and businesses. A respected voice for divorce issues affecting both women and men, Stacey has been published in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman's Day, Town & Country, The Huffington Post, xoJane, Scary Mommy, The Stir,, The Good Men Project, and various well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey is frequently called upon for her expertise and insights on the divorce experience and has repeatedly been quoted in The Huffington Post's divorce vertical. Stacey holds her B.A. in English, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University at Albany and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law. Email Stacey today at [email protected] or call 800-203-1946 for a free consultation and proposal. For more information, visit .

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