This is probably one of the most commonly asked questions…When can I start dating after I separate from my spouse? This is tricky for many reasons. There are two different scenarios in which we must examine.
1) The person you want to date now was someone you had a relationship with pre-separation
Whether you had sexual relations with the person or not this can create problems. If you start dating the person immediately following a separation and suspicions were there, then of course this will cause your spouse and his or her attorney to dig further. If you actually did have sexual relations with the person, then post acts of sexual misconduct can be used to corroborate allegations of pre separation misconduct.
Why does this matter? If there is an alimony claim involved and you are the spouse that needs money and you have had a sexual relationship with a 3rd party prior to separation, then your alimony claim is barred if this can be proven in court. If you are the spouse that would pay money to the other spouse, then this conduct bolsters the other side’s claim.
Also, people often forget that a sexual relationship with a third party while you are married regardless of whether you are separated is still technically adultery which is a minor criminal offense. Rarely is this ever charged but it is still something to be aware of. It is also another allegation that can be used in court to bolster either side's claims.
2) You start dating someone after the separation that you did not have any relationship with pre-separation
This wouldn’t necessarily hurt your case if you did not have illicit sexual relations with the person before you separated. But it is still adultery as stated above to have sex with a third party while you are still married even if you are separated.
However, dating after separation before legal documents are signed either by agreement or order of the court, usually tends to complicate matters. Divorce is already an emotional situation and add in a new relationship and feelings get hurt and emotions run even higher. And if the person you are dating is spending the night when your children are present, a judge may not like this and it could affect how much time you have with your children if you have to go to court. Judges like stability and consistency for children and allowing a new person to spend the night and immediately become part of a child’s life so soon after a separation rarely looks good in court.
Lisa Angel is President and CEO of Rosen Law Firm in Raleigh, NC