Can I date if I’m legally separated?
The decision to legally separate is not one that most couples make lightly. Many married couples want to stay together even when times are tough. However, sometimes, things are simply not working out. One partner may not be happy in the marriage and may not have been happy in the marriage for many years. Another partner may want to move on because the other partner is abusive to them or their children. In that case, a trial separation might be the best course of action. It’s important to keep several factors in mind during any separation. In many parts of the country, separation is an important step on the road to divorce. Separation indicates that the couple no longer intends to live together and therefore no longer intends to be legally married. In that case, it is crucial to realize that separation is part of a legal process. It not just the decision to move on. Certain conditions will apply to the couple as they remain separated.
A Legal Contract
Divorces can be complicated matters. The couple cannot simply go to the court system and say they don’t want to be married anymore and then get an immediate divorce by the end of the day. Marriage is a legally binding contract. As such, that means both parties to the marriage are bound by certain laws and obligations. When couples want to get out of this contract, they need to take concrete steps to do so. At the same time, the law still considers both parties to be legally married. This means that couples are still expected to act as if they are married even when they are currently separated. Just as dating when married, dating when merely separated can have all sorts of consequences. These consequences are not only moral. They’re also legal. This is why dating when legally separated can may not be the best thing for either party.
Varied State Laws
Laws regarding separation and divorce vary by state. In some states, a couple needs to be separated for a year before they can get a divorce. In others, the couple must sign a binding agreement and then agree to live apart for a short period. In all cases, even when the couples have signed a binding agreement to become separated and have even moved into separate residences, they are still considered married until the day the divorce agreement goes through. This means that someone who separated is technically married. It also means that even if someone is separated, in the eyes of the court system they are committing adultery if they date. In New Jersey, for example, couples will appear in court and speak with a judge about all issues related to their marriage. The court will issue what is known as a decree of legal separation. This is officially called a divorce from bed and board. But it’s still not a divorce until the actual divorce comes through.
Adultery in the Law
Keep in mind that adultery is still considered an actual crime in some states. While it is not prosecuted, it is still considered a criminal act. Being legally separated is not the same thing as being unmarried or divorced in the eyes of the law. Military parties are governed by separate laws. If one or more spouses are in military, dating while separated can have severe consequences. A spouse can be dismissed from duty if they date when they are separated. A military judge may even decide to prosecute a person who is separated but not divorced. A spouse who dates while separated also risks other problems that may impede their ultimate divorce settlement.
Changing the Divorce Process
If someone is found to be dating while they are separated, this can lead to problems for them. While someone can date, the other partner may go to court and tell the court officials that the other partner is technically committing adultery. The character of the person the other partner is dating can also come into play. For example, if someone is dating someone who has a prior criminal record, this can be cause for the court system to deny that partner the child custody arrangements they want. If the other partner knows there was an existing relationship before the separation, they can go the court system and present this as evidence of adultery prior to the marriage. If one partner is believed to be adulterous by the court, this too can impact the entire divorce agreement.
Given that even a relatively simple divorce can have all sorts of issues, it is best to consult with a lawyer before doing anything else. During the pre-divorce period, consulting with a lawyer about anything is ideal. The lawyer can point out what issues may arise as a result of a person’s actions while they are legally separated. The fact that there are so many varied divorce laws in so many states means that what affects someone in North Carolina may have little impact on their lives if they live in California. A good divorce lawyer knows this and can offer advice about what to do. With their help, the person may decide to put aside the new relationship until the divorce is complete. Or they may enter into a new relationship happily even when separated. A lawyer can provide necessary useful guidance to help them decide.