3 Things to Consider When Dating While Separated

Moving On Too Quickly Can Be Costly

Should you date while separated from your spouse? Moving on and dating again is a fact of life. However, moving on too soon can be a minefield that can impact your divorce, custody case and your future.

The Basics
There is no legal separation in Virginia. In order to obtain a divorce, you must live separate and apart from your spouse. The period of separation is one year if you have children with your spouse or six months, if you don’t have children and you have a property settlement agreement. Financial hardship or clogged court dockets often stretch the period of separation further than a year. Bottom line, you are still married until a final decree of divorce is entered by the court.  Unless you have a property settlement agreement allowing you to live as if you are single (sometimes called an adultery waiver), you risk damaging your case by dating too soon.

  1. Adultery
    Virginia code section 18.2-365 makes it a misdemeanor for any married person to have sexual intercourse with someone who is not his or her spouse. While the law is rarely enforced, you do risk prosecution by maintaining an intimate relationship during the period of separation.
  2. Equitable Distribution
    Equitable Distribution is the process by which a court divides marital property. A court is allowed to consider one party’s adultery when dividing the marital property. Usually, the court will only consider pre-separation adultery. However, your new significant other could make your spouse suspicious that something was going on before you separated. This could lead to a more extensive examination of your financial records, your phone records and your social media accounts. Finally, many divorces are worked out by agreement between the parties. However, the hard feelings caused by you moving on too quickly can sometimes make settlement impossible.
  3. Custody
    Child custody is the area where your new significant other can cause the most trouble. First, you need to determine what kind of baggage your new boyfriend or girlfriend carries with them. For example, if they have a criminal record or custody battle of their own. Additionally, some guardians ad litem have reservations about new people coming into a child’s life. This can impact the guardian’s recommendation on custody and could sway the court to award custody to your spouse. Further, some courts still put provisions into custody orders barring overnight guests of the opposite sex, unrelated by blood or marriage. A court can hold you in contempt for a violation of this provision.

So can you date if you’re separated from your spouse? Answer: it depends. If you need help with a divorce or custody case in the Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie, Hopewell, Petersburg, Prince George, or Sussex. Give us a call at (804)668-5327 and schedule a consultation to discuss in more detail.