After your marriage is over and you are separated, you may become interested in dating again. However, if your divorce is not finalized, you may be wondering if you can date other people. In short, the answer is yes.
In North Carolina, you are separated from your spouse once you are living separately and apart with the intent to divorce. This means that you must actually live in a separate dwelling from your spouse, not just separate bedrooms. It takes one year from your date of separation to be able to file for an actual divorce. In the meantime, you are doing your best to move on with your life, which may include meeting someone. So long as you are separated from your spouse and living apart, it is okay to begin a new relationship. If, however, you and your spouse are continuing to live under the same roof, even though you agreed to separate, and you begin dating, that could be considered adultery, which can affect the alimony that you may receive or have to pay.
Another precaution that comes with dating again is that if your spouse had suspicions that you were in another relationship prior to separating, jumping into a new relationship soon after your separation may make it seem like there is some support for those suspicions. If a judge agrees with your spouse that there was an opportunity and inclination for you to have been in a relationship prior to the date of separation, this may also affect the alimony that you receive or are required to pay. Additionally, judges will likely also take into consideration an individual’s new partner when determining custody arrangements.
Another reason you want to be sure that you are separated from your spouse is because if you start a new relationship with someone without being separated, your spouse might be able to sue that person for Alienation of Affection and/or Criminal Conversation. Not only will that affect the relationship you have with your new girlfriend or boyfriend, but it can be a factor in finalizing areas of your own separation. For instance, your spouse may hold this claim over your head when it comes to splitting assets.
If you decide to date someone while your divorce is being finalized, you can, as a precaution, include terms in a Separation Agreement about not taking legal action against third parties. This could include your spouse waiving their right to sue your new girlfriend/boyfriend for alienation of affection, criminal conversation, or any other tort. By including this type of provision in a Separation Agreement, it can give you and your new partner more peace of mind to date freely.
Ultimately, it is okay to begin dating again after you are separated from your spouse. However, you want to make sure you are cautious before jumping right back into dating. Once you truly feel ready to date again, you are free to do so by following these precautions.
If you or someone you know may have a situation where any of the above-mentioned situations are involved, contact Hatcher Law Group for a consultation with an experienced family law attorney to understanding your rights and options moving forward.