With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, you may be separated and feeling more single than ever. So that begs the question – what about dating while separated?
Let’s consider the various ways in which dating may affect you during what should simply be a no-fault, 6-month or 1-year separation period as required by Virginia Code Section 20-91.
The most obvious is that rather than doing a no-fault divorce in 6-months or 1-year after meeting the statutory requirements for separation depending on your specific scenario, you will now give your spouse the ability to file against you on grounds for divorce due to your adultery. This can add to an already uncomfortable situation if you or your new partner becomes entangled in a suit based upon adultery grounds. You and your new partner can be questioned at trial or deposed to discuss the intricacies of your relationship. Your bank or credit card statements may be combed through during the discovery process to assemble a narrative related to your relationship. There is even a possibility that the adultery could affect your security clearance if it comes to light. It also could be a bar to spousal support that you would receive or change the division of marital assets by the court.
If you are a parent, the biggest impact that dating may have in your divorce case may be upon custody of your children if you end up at trial or at a hearing seeking a temporary determination of a custodial arrangement by the court. The court could even put a prohibition on you having the new partner for overnights while the children are present. Remember that dating while married but separated is still considered adultery in the eyes of the court, so you will want to use the utmost discretion around your children. The kids are trying to adjust to their parents being separated too, so they should be given time to get used to their new normal. This in practice means that it would be best not to have any romantic partner sleeping over while the kids are with you until you are actually divorced. You should also consider whether any pre-divorce introductions of your new partner to the children would be prudent. Although your introduction of the new romantic partners is merely one factor that the court can consider in determining the children’s best interests according to Virginia Code Section 20-124.3, your decisions can inform the court about your level of judgment or fitness as a parent.
As you can see from above, you may be ready to get back into dating as soon as possible after you have separated from your spouse, but there are some very good reasons as to why you shouldn’t jump back into dating too quickly. At a minimum, it would be wise to wait until there is at least a signed Property Settlement Agreement that states that the parties intend to proceed on no-fault grounds before dating.
If you are thinking about separating from your spouse or already have and need more guidance on dating, our firm would be happy to help you navigate the next steps in your divorce process.
Alisa practices family law as a divorce lawyer from the Fairfax and Manassas offices in the Circuit and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts for Fairfax County, Prince William County and Loudoun County.