Dating While Separated

Dating while separated. Is it ok?

Many of my clients come to me with unique stories and situations. Whether there is a complex property division or a heated argument about child custody, there are some questions that seem to come about on a regular occasion which has nothing to do with the property or the children exactly.

Rather, I find that my clients want clarification as to what exactly is separation for purposes of a divorce in North Carolina and how does it affect their love life. It takes one year from the date you separate to get divorced in North Carolina. Depending on the issues in particular case, it may take several years before all of your claims have been resolved. Many clients find that after being separated for a few months they would like to go on a date so they often ask is dating while separated ok.

Can I date during my separation?

Yes, you can date someone else after you separate from your spouse.  There is nothing illegal or wrong about dating while separated and waiting for your divorce. Many people choose to start dating again at some point during their separation and before the final divorce decree is entered.

While you can date during your separation, I must add some precautions.

Precautions to take in dating while separated

You must be separated from your spouse before you start dating. NC doesn’t require that you file anything or 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 or 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.

The intent to divorce does not necessarily need to be communicated to the other party, but if you want to ensure everyone is on the same page, including any future lawyers or judges, be sure to talk to your spouse. If you can’t find it in you to have a conversation with your spouse about separating, then put your desire to divorce in an email. No separation documents need to be signed and no orders need to be filed with the court to establish the date of separation.

Now once you are legally separated, you can essentially act as a single person in the dating arena. 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. This is a sticky situation that I would not want any of my clients to battle. If a few months have passed since you separated and you simply want to get a meal with someone you have a romantic interest in, feel free to do so.

And once your divorce is final, feel free to marry anyone else of your choosing. If you are suspicious of where the line between dating versus a case for adultery exists, at least take the time to talk with your family law attorney. Creating further complications should be avoided in any divorce regardless of your circumstances.

How long should I wait to start dating?

Now that you know that you can date after you are legally separated, you may be asking yourself how long you should wait before dating.

5 Signs You are Ready to Date Again
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Are you 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

The bottom line – dating is ok 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.

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Angela McIlveen
CEO/Partner Attorney
Angela McIlveen is a founding Partner Attorney at the McIlveen Family Law Firm. As a partner at the McIlveen Law Firm, she handles cases in family law including child custody and support, divorce, alimony, adoption, separation, domestic violence and equitable distribution. She is often called upon to teach CLE classes to other attorney and to speak at events.

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