Is It Legal to Start Dating While Separated But Not Divorced?
Is Separated Dating Legally Allowed?
Many people choose to move on and date after divorce, but for those who find the proceedings slow the choice may come while legalities are still being dealt with. This is the point at which things can become complex. The question of whether you should be dating during separation is one that only you can answer; you know whether you are ready to date or not.
As to whether it’s legal to date other people while you are legally separated, but not divorced, the answer is yes. As long as you are separated, your choice to date someone new will not affect your divorce proceedings (provided you began dating after separation!).
For reference, separation begins, in legal terms, when you live under separate roofs and at least one spouse has stated that they wish to end the marriage.
Precautions to Take Before Dating During Separation
The first thing you need to do, as cold as it sounds, is making sure that you’re in the clear! If you move onto a rebound relationship too fast and, for example, move in with a new partner shortly after your separation your spouse could argue that you were cheating. If they do, and you are already living with a new partner, the judge may see this as evidence of guilt, and this could really affect your divorce settlement.
While the definition of separation as given above is pretty standard, you should also check the laws of your state. In many states being sexually involved with a new partner during fault, divorce proceeding could be classed as adultery. Of course, if you choose to date this is your business but you should be aware of any potential ramifications!
Finally, before you consider dating again, whether it’s during separation or after divorce, you should first take care of yourself. Take the time to be alone, give yourself time to unwind your feelings about the end of your marriage, and figure out what you want. Make sure that when you do decide to date again it’s because you want to date that person, not because you are lonely and looking to run from the reality of your divorce!
Once you are ready to start dating, or you meet someone who really makes your heart flutter, there are some things you can do to make sure that your renewed romantic life remains a pleasure rather than a problem.
Firstly, consult with your divorce lawyer to see if there are any issues you should be aware of. If they think it would be best, you could also discuss the matter with your ex. If you feel this would antagonize them unnecessarily, however, then it would be best not to. Secondly, you should be honest with your new beau; they need to know where you stand. You don’t need to share every detail of your marriage’s breakdown, of course, but let them know that you are separated, that the divorce is underway, and make it clear that you do not desire reconciliation with your ex. This will not only help to build trust but will give them a chance to ask questions and air any worries they have.
This next one may seem obvious, but it is important; keep your kids free of your new relationship until all legal issues are settled and you are certain that there is potential in this new undertaking. Your kids will be confused and upset enough by the divorce proceedings, they do not need extra upheaval!
Above and beyond all else, however, you need to be clear with your ex; tell them that you have no desire to reconcile and be firm. Don’t waver when you get lonely, or let your kids talk you into something you know you will regret. Once you have filed for divorce you need to stay the course and deal with whatever may come!
Dating Someone Who Is Separated but Not Divorced
If it’s not you who is undergoing this situation, but you are dating a separated man or woman, this may all seem a bit daunting to you.
Firstly, it is key that you remember that you are entitled to feel your feelings; it is hard to step into someone’s life when they’re still cleaning up an old mess. Furthermore, you have every right to protect yourself from potential fallout from their relationship issues!
Before getting seriously involved in dating a separated woman or man you should first find out what kind of separation they are experiencing. There are, generally speaking, three kinds. A trial separation is not legally recognized and involves a short separation, agreed upon by both partners, in which the couple decide to see if they are ready to separate fully or if they wish to make it permanent. If you step into this situation, you may well face repercussions from your date’s spouse. If your date and their ex are living apart, they may well be in the process of waiting to file for a no-fault divorce (in certain states you must have lived separately for a set period in order to do this). In some states, these two forms of separation class the couple as legally joined and so their assets and debts are still pooled until a divorce is formally filed. If your date is permanently separated then they have fully left their partner and have no intention of returning, they may be awaiting a divorce ruling.
Finally, there is also the case of legal separation, which is rare, wherein the court rules on the division of property and debts, as well as alimony and child support, but does not grant a divorce. This can be chosen for religious, personal, or financial reasons, but does render them single persons in terms of debt and property, etc.
It is important that you know where you stand with any new partner!
Tips for Dating a Separated Man or Woman
You should probably find out if your date has agreed or discussed the possibility of dating with their ex before you do anything else. Of course, it is up to them if they wish to date again, but if their ex-spouse is not in the loop that may put you in the firing line; you have a right to know if there’s chance trouble could come your way!
If you’re happy with the answer to that question, and you have clarified your joint expectations for this relationship, it’s time to start thinking about what dating a separated, but not divorced, man or woman will be like.
The first thing you should do, when dating someone who is separated, is asking them why they want to date you. This may seem silly, but it is important; if they give you any other reason than that they are interested in you and have feelings for you, it’s time to walk away. If they say, “we get on well”, or “it’s nice to have company”, or anything like that you’re looking at someone who is trying to fill a void with dating rather than someone who likes you for you.
Secondly, you need to come to terms with the fact that your relationship may have restrictions until the divorce is finalized; in certain states, your relationship could affect their divorce proceedings. Be prepared to not meet their kids, not move in, and perhaps not vacation together until the divorce goes through.
Finally, you should be prepared to take it slow when it comes to blending with their family, especially if you have children of your own and will be bringing them into the new relationship and family with you. At first, it pays to position yourself as a fun influence in the lives of your partners’ kids (but do not undermine their discipline at all!) and bond with them in ways that are non-threatening to the dynamic of their family. E.g. do not try to replace their other parent or take on a role of authority straight away!
Separated Dating Needn’t Be Difficult
Whether you’re dating a separated person, or you are a separated person starting to date again, however, it is most important that you date for the right reasons. After all love and romance should be positive influences and factors in your life. If your love life is causing you grief or is endangering your divorce proceedings and settlement you should back away and regroup. It may be lonelier in the short-term, but you will be better for it in the long-term, and when you do come to date you will find that you get more out of relationships if you are ready both emotionally and socially for what they entail.
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