Speak With a Chesapeake Family Law Attorney Before Dating If You’ve Been Separated From Your Spouse

With a pending divorce in Virginia, deciding whether to date while separated can stir a whirlwind of emotions. Separation can be challenging, especially when children are involved, and the desire to move on is natural. The decision to date during a period of separation is laden with potential legal consequences. You may want to think twice before re-entering the dating scene prior to the finalization of your divorce. With the guidance and support of an experienced family law attorney, you can make a more informed choice when grappling with this decision. Let attorney James E. Short help you navigate the complexities of separation and divorce.

You Can Date While Separated (But You May Not Want To)

The short answer could be yes, you can go on a date. Even though Virginia Code § 18.2-365 defines adultery as a criminal offense punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor, the state rarely prosecutes when there is a pending divorce. When you are separated from your spouse in Virginia, though, you are still legally married. 

While you might be able to date while married, it’s likely not prudent in most marriages. Starting or having an intimate relationship with someone else while separated one of the common mistakes made during divorce cases. Mistakes like dating while still married or speaking negatively about your spouse in the presence of your children may be used by your spouse as grounds for divorce. They may justify their assertion that you are legally at fault for the separation. This can have far-reaching implications for divorce proceedings, which take up to two years or more in contested cases. 

Dating Can Hurt Your Case in Divorce Proceedings 

Since you are still legally married while separated from your spouse, you may be committing adultery, as defined by law, by dating outside the marriage. This can be enough for your spouse to argue for a fault-based, contested divorce rather than a no-fault, uncontested divorce. Without children, you must live apart for at least six months to apply for a no-fault divorce. With kids, the separation period extends to a full year. 

Dating during this time can harm your case, as it provides evidence you are not fulfilling your matrimonial duties. This can impact the outcome of your divorce in many ways, including:

  • Child custody and visitationThe courts may decide that dating while separated is not in your children’s best interests and award primary custody to your spouse. 
  • Spousal supportA partner who commits adultery may not be eligible to receive spousal support after their divorce is finalized. 
  • Property divisionThe equitable distribution of marital assets may be skewed in favor of the non-dating spouse in a fault-based divorce. 

How Going on a Date Can Affect Separation Agreements

Before the courts finalize your divorce, you and your spouse may enter into a separation agreement. This only applies when the divorce is uncontested and no-fault, not when one spouse refuses to cooperate with filing for divorce. The partners are willing to negotiate child custody, temporary visitation rights, asset division, and other considerations.

Even if exchanges have been reasonably amicable and cordial, the tone can change if one partner starts dating before the divorce is finalized. Overnight guests and romantic partners can violate temporary custody and visitation orders. If you are accused of adultery, it has the potential to nullify the separation agreement and you’re left starting over again, this time from a weakened position in a fault-based divorce. 

Discuss Your Choices With Your Virginia Divorce Lawyer

You may be at a point in your separation where you feel lonely and want to seek companionship. This is a perfectly normal, human experience during this difficult time. You may also feel that you and your spouse are at a point where they’d be willing to accept that you’d like to start dating again. Before you do, choose a Virginia divorce attorney who can answer your questions and guide you through this process. 

Chesapeake family law attorney James E. Short has over three decades of private practice experience handling complex divorce, personal injury, and criminal defense cases. Before making any rash dating decisions you may later regret, meet with Mr. Short to discuss how an innocent date can dramatically affect the outcome of your pending divorce.