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Can You Date While Legally Separated?

Can You Date While Legally Separated

Yes, you can date someone else after you separate from your spouse. You might not want to depending on your situation. You should discuss this with your divorce lawyer.

There is nothing illegal or wrong about dating while married and waiting for your divorce as long as you are living separate and apart. Many people choose to start dating again at some point during their separation and before the final divorce decree are entered. You don’t have to be separated for any particular period of time to be legally separated. The date of separation occurs when both spouses live under separate roofs and at least one spouse has the intent to end the marriage. You are not separated if you sleep in separate bedrooms. You are not separated if one person sleeps in the basement suite. The spouses must be physically under separate roofs. The intent is created by simply one person wanting the divorce to occur. If you start dating before you are separated it is called adultery. Adultery can have a devastating impact on alimony. If you are thinking about going on a date with someone who is still married, be sure to do your research and determine if they are really legally separated from their spouse.
However, if you are facing any divorce issues that could involve allegations of adultery or other forms of marital misconduct, please do not move into a new partner’s place within a few weeks or months after the date of separation. A judge could look at the behavior as indicating that an affair actually occurred before the date of separation. Moving in with a boyfriend or girlfriend can also impact your custody case. Finally, once your divorce decree or judgment is granted, feel free to marry anyone else of your choosing.

SIGNS YOU ARE READY TO DATE AGAIN

• You are no longer romantically involved with your spouse. Often when people separate, they are still involved with their spouse, even if they aren’t having sex or living together. Ask yourself if you are truly no longer romantically involved with your husband or wife. Would it bother you if your spouse was dating someone else? If so, you may not be ready to date.

• Are the more difficult parts of your divorce resolved? If not, you may want to hold off on becoming romantically involved with someone new. It’s difficult to start a new relationship if you are still battling the old one in court.

• Are your family and friends aware of your separation and have they had time to adjust to the new life you are living? You will want the support of your family and close friends as you start dating again. Make sure they are ready for you to make the jump back into the dating pool.

• Have you taken the time to grieve? A divorce is a traumatic event. You need time to mourn the loss of the relationship you had. You don’t want to start your dating life on a rebound date.

• Have you taken time to figure out who you are now that you are separated? Oftentimes people who are divorcing in their 40’s last lived alone in their 20’s. You likely aren’t the same person now that you were then. But do you know who you are without your significant other? What do you like to do?

Types of Separation

A separation isn’t the same as a divorce. Separation means that you are living apart from your spouse, but you’re still legally married until you get a judgment of divorce from a court (even if you already have a judgment of separation). However, generally a separation does affect the financial responsibilities between you and your spouse before the divorce is final. There are three different types of separation. In most states, only one (legal separation) changes your legal status but all three of them have the potential to affect your legal rights.

Trial Separation

If you and your spouse need a break from the relationship, you may choose to live apart while you decide between divorce and reconciliation. While you’re separated, the same legal rules apply as when you are married, in terms of ownership of property. For example, money you earn and property you buy are likely to still be considered jointly owned by you and your spouse, depending on your state’s rules about property ownership. If you and your spouse are hoping to reconcile, it’s a good idea to write an informal agreement about some issues that will surely come up. For example, you will need to decide whether or not you will continue to share a joint bank account or credit cards and how you’ll budget your spending, which of you will stay in the family home, how expenses will be shared, and the like. If you have kids, you’ll need to decide how and when each of you will spend time with them. If you both decide there’s no going back, your trial separation turns into a permanent one. That’s discussed next.

Permanent Separation

When you live apart from your spouse without intending to reconcile but you are not divorced, you are considered permanently separated. In some states, living apart can change property rights between spouses if you don’t intend to get back together, then assets and debts acquired during the separation belong only to the spouse who acquires them. Once you are permanently separated, you are no longer responsible for any debts that your spouse incurs. Similarly, you’re no longer entitled to any share of property or income that your spouse acquires or earns. Because it can significantly affect how your property and money are divided, the date of permanent separation is sometimes hotly contested in a divorce. For example, if your spouse left in a huff and spent a month sleeping on a friend’s couch, but you didn’t discuss divorce until the month had passed and neither of you intended to divorce before then, the date of separation is somewhat questionable. If during that month your spouse received a big bonus at work, which it belongs to is also arguable. If you move out of the house and don’t expect any long-term reconciliation with your spouse, there may be consequences to going out or spending the night together just for old times’ sake. If you do briefly reconcile, you risk changing the date of separation and becoming responsible for your spouse’s financial actions during a period when you thought you were responsible only for yourself. Once you’re separated and have made basic agreements about your joint assets and debts, you don’t have to divorce right away. Some people stay married because of insurance and inertia can be a factor, too.

Legal Separation

In some (not all) states, you can get a legal separation by filing a request in family court. Being legally separated is a different legal status from being divorced or married you’re no longer married, but you’re not divorced either, and you can’t remarry. But the court’s order granting the legal separation includes orders about property division, alimony, and child custody and support, just as a divorce would.

People choose legal separation instead of divorce because of religious beliefs, a desire to keep the family together legally for the sake of children, the need for one spouse to keep the health insurance benefits that would be lost with a divorce, or simple aversion to divorcing despite the desire to live separate lives. Some people live very happily in a state of legal separation for many years. (If you’re considering a legal separation instead of divorce so that you can keep insurance benefits, check the insurance plan before making the decision. Some consider a legal separation the same as a divorce for purposes of terminating health benefits.

Separation is that difficult in-between place many find themselves in when their relationship isn’t going well. The relationship has not completely severed, but emotionally you are far apart. If you are thinking of dating someone outside of the relationship, there are some things you will want to consider first.

Deciding Whether to Date

Think about the impact on the relationship: If you are separated and not planning a divorce, there may be a chance of reconciling. Dating may sabotage any attempts at reconciliation unless you are dating the person from whom you are separated. Prior to dating someone else, be sure you either want to end the relationship or that the other person is okay with seeing other people during the separation.

• Think about how you would feel in the other person’s shoes.

• Consider relationship counseling.

• Remember that communication is a major factor in repairing a relationship, so talk with the other person if you may want to reconcile.
Identify the legal impact: If you are married, it is generally not advisable to date other people until the divorce is final. Dating other people can increase animosity between divorcing couples, which tends to decrease the likelihood of amicable settlements and increase the cost of divorce attorneys and other court costs. In some circumstances, dating before the divorce is final can also negatively impact property settlements and custody determinations.

• Former spouses who become jealous that the other party has found a new relationship tend to be less willing to agree to property settlements or parenting arrangements.

• In states that grant divorces on the basis of fault, the fact that you have a relationship during the separation can be used as evidence that you had a relationship prior to the separation.

• The character of people you regularly bring in contact with your children is relevant to parenting arrangements. Any new partner could potentially be subject to examination and/or investigation by the court or other party because of the proximity s/he will likely have to the children.
Determine how it will affect you and your spouse emotionally: During a separation, emotions are generally raw. Both parties to the relationship are usually hurt and potentially angry about the breakup. You may want to take some time to get to know the new you, especially if the relationship lasted several years, instead of jumping into a quick rebound relationship.

• Some experts recommend waiting at least six months before making any major decisions.

• Be sure you are dating because you enjoy the company of the company of the other person instead of to fill a hole left by the loss of the relationship or out of anger at the other person.

• Consider going out with groups of people instead of pairing up with any one person to help fill the void left from the loss of the relationship.

Going Out

Meet new people: During your separation, it is good to meet new people. This can lead to filling those hours that you previously spent with your partner. While this is not technically dating, it is the beginnings of becoming available to date. Some ways to meet new people include:

• Volunteering for issues that interest you, such as museums or animal shelters

• Taking classes for things you enjoy, such as cooking, writing, or a sport

• Starting or joining a club or organization, such as a book club or a religious organization. A local church or community center may even have a single parents’ group.

Do things in groups: Going out in groups is not technically dating, even though those groups often are comprised of couples. Going with groups of people to events, including movies, restaurants, and sporting events is a good way to socialize while your divorce is pending. It is also a good way to get to know the other person without the stress of a formal date in the background. Almost any activity that can be done one-on-one can also be done with a group of people. Consider such activities as:

• Going hiking with a mixed-gender group of friends

• Seeing a play or movie with a mixed-gender group of friends.

• Going to the beach or park with a mixed-gender group of friends.
Exercise discretion: If you do decide to go out on a paired-off date while separated, exercise discretion. This does not mean be secretive, but you don’t want to throw it in your former partner’s face, either, especially if he is having difficulty dealing with the breakup.

• Don’t change your Facebook status to reflect any new relationships.

• Don’t announce dates on social media.

• Don’t talk about your dates in front of your children or friends who are also friends of your former spouse.

Consider telling potential dates your true marital status: If you are still married, the potential date has the right to know this. Only with this information can that person make an informed decision about whether he wants to be involved with the stress that is usually involved in this stage of your life.

• Often, people feel betrayed if they learn that information has been withheld from them.

• Once you start dating, your partner(s) could potentially find themselves involved in your case against their will.

• Some people feel it is morally wrong to date others before the divorce is final.

Exposing Children to Dates

Be sensitive to the children’s ages and emotional states: Realize that children cope differently at different ages, and that children of all ages are likely to be resistant to you dating soon after separating from their other parent.

Talk about dating: Children frequently have concerns about losing a parent during a separation or divorce. Children of any age should be made aware that just because you are dating, you are not trying to replace their other parent.

• Open lines of communication, but don’t over share. If a child is fine with you dating, end the conversation.

• Reassure your child that the other person will not replace their other parent or take you away from them.

• Allow your child to voice concerns and emotions without fear of punishment.

Shield children from casual dates: Even if your divorce is final and your children appear to be okay that you are dating, you should avoid having them meet every person you date. The children should only meet a person that will likely be around for a while, not casual dates that will likely come and go.

• Young children tend to form attachments more easily than adults. If your relationship doesn’t work out, your child may need to deal with the loss of this person, too.

• If you have not gotten to know this person very well, they may bring some exposures to your children that you would prefer they not be exposed to.

• Realize that children need time to transition to their new lives with separated parents before new people are added into it.

The bottom line is that dating is okay and there is nothing illegal about dating while you are separated, however, it can complicate matters and you should wait until you are sure you are ready to be in a relationship again.

Separation Lawyer Free Consultation

When you need help with legal separation or divorce, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506 for your Free Consultation. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

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About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.