Others may have encouraged you to do so, advising you that making social acquaintances outside of your married circle of friends will be therapeutic. It’s important for your self-esteem, you tell yourself. And besides, you and your spouse have verbally agreed to date other people.
Not so fast.
The answer to the question, “Can I date while separated?” is more complex than one may think. Dating while separated can complicate eventual legal proceedings and damage your chances of a favorable resolution.
If children are involved, this could detrimentally affect your custody or visitation rights. Judges tend to look disfavourably on introducing children to new romantic partners too soon after a separation. Even if the marriage produced no children, prematurely “moving on” can complicate a property settlement or invite a lawsuit against the “the other man” or “other woman.” While “the other man” or “other woman” can no longer successfully be sued if the new relationship started after the date of separation, evidence proving that a relationship existed shortly after the date of separation can be used to help prove that a relationship existed prior to the date of separation.
Dating and Child Custody
Seeing you with someone other than your spouse can make your children very uncomfortable. Introducing children to a new romantic partner is a process that must be done with care. In a child custody case, the judge must decide what is in the best interest of the children when determining the custody rights of each parent. A judge could consider introducing a new romantic partner to the children too soon as being not in their best interests.
Simply having your new partner stay overnight while your children are present could be sufficient grounds for limitation of your custody and/or visitation rights. Each child custody case is different, depending on the unique circumstances involved. It is important that you consult with an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney before you make decisions that could affect your child custody and visitation rights.
Alienation of Affection
In North Carolina, a jilted spouse can sue the other man or other woman by bringing a lawsuit for “alienation of affection.” Essentially, your spouse can sue your girlfriend or boyfriend for “alienating” your affections and damaging your marriage if the alienating activity started prior to your date of permanent separation. To add insult to injury, one need not even have engaged in sexual activity to invite an alienation of affection suit against this new partner.
Can I Date While Separated?
In many cases, particularly if you are the spouse claiming alimony, this is not advisable. In addition to the complications discussed above, it could adversely affect your claim for alimony – or whether you receive any alimony at all. In North Carolina, “cohabitation,” (as defined by N.C.G.S. § 50-16.9) with a romantic partner is a ground to terminate your right to receive alimony. Be aware that you will very likely be asked under oath about any dating or romantic relationships. Answering this question less than truthfully would constitute perjury.
Think twice before you begin a new relationship. Better yet, don’t wait until divorce proceedings are imminent to consult an attorney with a thorough knowledge of North Carolina divorce law and what implications, if any, dating will have.
The experienced family law attorneys at Montgomery Family Law are ready to help you with any question you may have regarding separation, divorce, and best practices. Call us today to schedule an initial consultation and learn more about our services.
For further assistance, please call us at (919) 348-2317!