Can I date after I separate from my spouse, but have not officially divorced? This is a question a lot of people ask once they are no longer living as a married couple. Legally, the answer is yes. There is no criminal law that prevents someone from dating after separation and before the divorce is final.
Whether you were unhappy in your marriage for a long time prior to separating, or as the months have passed after your separation you find that you miss the companionship of another person, it’s reasonable to ask about dating. Many people enjoy having a special “someone” to share their free time with and waiting the “year and a day” from your date of separation to file for divorce can seem daunting without companionship and support. So, you may have good reason to want to date.
The more tempered and reasoned answer to “Can I date after I separate?” is yes, BUT it’s best to consider any legal consequences dating could have on issues related to your separation such as negotiating a separation agreement, spousal support (post-separation support and alimony), or child custody.
- Spousal Support. The court can consider marital fault in a spousal support determination. Evidence that you are in a relationship with someone after you separate could be used to support the contention that the relationship occurred prior to your separation. This can also apply to alienation of affection or criminal conversation tort claims.
- Child Custody. Although you may be ready for a new relationship, your children may not be. Remember, the life your children knew prior to your separation has changed drastically. They may not want to share your affection with another person or they may resent, be defensive, or be angry about you new relationship. They are just coming to accept that you and the other parent are no longer together. It usually takes time for children to accept and process the separation. This is a time to focus on providing as much stability, love, and support as you can for your children. It’s best to be overly cautious when introducing someone new to your children. Be certain this new person holds your same values, and is stable, open, and accepting of your children.
- Negotiations. Consider the consequences that dating someone may have on the negotiation process. It’s always best to try to come to an agreement with your spouse, without court intervention, whenever possible. If your spouse knows that you are in a new relationship, will your spouse become defensive, hurt, or angry? This could impede the settlement process.
Generally, if you’ve met someone for the first time AFTER you separated, it’s probably okay to date (but see above), and if your spouse is dating someone, it’s generally acceptable for you to date (but see above ☺).
Talk with your family law attorney if you are considering dating after you separate. Be honest and upfront, and talk with the attorney about your options and the possible consequences. And remember, a year in the grand scheme of things is a relatively short time. So patience may be your best option.
New Direction Family Law