If you are in the process of getting a divorce, you and your spouse may be emotionally and physically separated, even if your divorce is not yet finalized. This may mean that in your heart, you have split from your spouse, and may have even moved on to a new love interest.
While emotionally you may be ready to hop back into the dating game, legally, there could be consequences. If you are separating from your spouse in Virginia, consider the following regarding what you should know about dating during divorce:
You Are Married Until You Are Divorced
It may sound obvious, but some people forget that until their divorce is finalized, they are married in the eyes of the law. If you are married in the eyes of the law and you engage in relations with a party other than your spouse, you are committing adultery. The act of committing adultery in Virginia is not a criminal act, but it can have a significant impact on the outcome of your divorce case.
Adultery May Affect Your Spousal Support Award
Were you planning to seek spousal support, or alimony, from your spouse during your divorce? Spousal maintenance is common in many divorce cases in Virginia, and is awarded when one party in the marriage is financially dependent on the other and unable to support their basic needs (or acquire the education or training to do so). However, if your spouse can prove that you committed adultery, the family law court will not award you alimony. This means that if you date while you are still married, you may jeopardize your right to spousal support.
Dating During Divorce Could Affect a Property Distribution Judgement
More than just whether or not you are allowed to receive a spousal support award, dating during your divorce could also affect a property distribution judgement as well. This is because when a court is making a property distribution decision, they may consider the “circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage” (Code of Virginia Section 20-107.3). This means that if your spouse could prove that you were dating another party, and that your dating was the cause of the dissolution of the marriage, this could have an effect on the amounts of property and assets you are awarded. Not dating during your divorce is the best way to deflect and negate this claim.
An Act of Adultery May Affect Your Right to Child Custody
Child custody in Virginia is determined based on the best interests of the child. The best interests of the child are determined by considering a number of factors, including the needs of the child, the needs and abilities of the parents, and more.
If you are dating while your divorce is pending, not only may this be considered an adulterous act, but it could also be considered one that is negligent as it pertains to your responsibilities as a parent. It could be argued that your romantic relationship(s) with another party are damaging to your child’s psychological well-being, and that rather than focusing your child, you are too interested and wrapped up in your own love life.
Best Practices During a Divorce
When you are going through a divorce, it is best to focus on the divorce, protecting your legal interests, and any children you may have. If you do want to date, you should be careful about what you post on social media, how public you allow the relationship to become, moving into together or making joint purchases, and allowing the new person to spend time with your child. You are not prohibited from dating, but it is not recommended.
How a Virginia Family Law Attorney Can Help
When you are going through a divorce in Virginia, the talented family law attorneys at Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C. want to help you secure the best outcome possible. We don’t want you to miss out on the benefits of spousal support, an equitable property distribution agreement, and certainly not parenting time with your child, as a result of dating during divorce. To learn more about what you should and should not do, and how we can help, contact us today at (703) 361-1555 or online to schedule your consultation.