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Would it be considered adultery if I date while we’re separated?

Dating While Separated: Legal and Emotional Considerations


Dating someone else while you’re separated and not legally divorced can be a tricky issue. Even though you are no longer with your spouse, you are still married to that person. In many states, dating someone else while you’re separated is considered adultery. However, there are numerous people who do date others while they are separated because they want the companionship that is offered. They also don’t want to put their lives on hold while waiting for the divorce to become finalized. If your spouse can prove that you are dating someone else before the divorce is final, then there could be serious ramifications that you need to consider.

Legal Ramifications

If you are seeking any kind of spousal support, then dating while being separated could mean that you won’t receive that support. It’s best to speak with an attorney who understands family laws and separations. Most attorneys will usually advise against dating while you’re separated. In most states, you have to be separated for at least one year before the divorce can become final. Until the final paperwork is entered in the court, you are still married during this time. There are laws in some states that allow for alienation of affection. This action is taken against another person who the plaintiff feels had some part in ending the marriage. Dating someone soon after the separation date might be considered normal by most people, but your spouse and family members on both sides might think that you were talking to that person before you left the marital relationship. There is often a three-year statute of limitations if one person decides to file this action. There are no sexual relations required to file the action.

Defenses in Court

There are a few defenses that you can use in court. If alienation of affection has been addressed, then you could claim that there was no love between the two of you and that there was no sexual relationship between you and your spouse. You could also demonstrate that acts surrounding the alienation for affection claim didn’t begin until after the separation date. This information will likely hurt the claims made by your spouse, especially if you have witnesses and other evidence to prove that you didn’t know the person you’re dating until after you left the marital relationship.

Impact on Spousal Support

If there is any kind of misconduct by either member of the relationship, the judge might not award spousal support. If you are seeking spousal support, then it’s best not to begin a formal dating relationship until after the divorce is final so that you stand a better chance of being granted the order by the judge. No one can control their emotions. On that note, if you feel that your life would be complete and that you have found someone who will treat you better than your spouse, then you could speak with your attorney about dating and the best way to handle the situation in court if your spouse presses the issue.

The Role of Separation Agreements

The separation agreement is more like a contract between spouses until the divorce is final. Some couples don’t draft a formal agreement and just go their own ways until the divorce is finalized. However, a separation agreement can include details about dating as well as any spousal support and child support if there are children in the relationship. If both people want to date, then you can make stipulations in the agreement that are suitable for both people involved. This is often the best way to approach dating before the divorce is final so that both of you can see other people without being punished. Once you have an agreement in place, your attorney can file the document with the court. It’s possible to change the agreement, but if it’s one that both parties agree on, then it might be best to leave it alone until you complete the paperwork to finalize your divorce.

Judicial Bias and Impact on Support

Sometimes, a judge might develop a bias against the person who dates during the separation. Even though this is not acceptable behavior in the courtroom, it is in the human nature of people to make judgments. If the judge does look differently at your decision to date, then it could greatly impact the final decision about support and the amount of support that you receive. If you are dating someone else, then the judge might see that the other person is capable of providing financially for you instead of relying on the support of your spouse. Child support is usually not impacted as often because children are seen as innocent in the relationship.

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