What you need to know about Dating during Separation in Pennsylvania
Divorce is often regarded as an ending but it can also be a new beginning. Couples often decide to separate if they feel they need to take a break from their marriage or if they are happier living apart.
While they may prefer living apart to being married to each other, they may find that they still yearn for the company of another adult. At this time, questions may arise as to whether it is legitimate to date during separation or if dating must wait until after the divorce is official.
Does dating during this period amount to adultery? The simple answer to this is: it depends on the circumstances. But generally, dating during separation is not adultery. Here’s why.
Dating during separation does not amount to adultery
In Pennsylvania, divorce is not complete until after the divorce decree has been given by the Court of Common Pleas. However, parties are required to live apart for at least a year before they can even file for divorce.
For couples whose marriage has already started breaking down long before the divorce, the extra year of waiting can seem like a long time. Besides, divorce is hardly cut and dried.
In a perfect world, separated and divorcing spouses would not start dating until their divorce is final. But that’s easier said than done.
Is it okay to date someone else during separation from your spouse? Yes it is, provided you’re doing it right. It’s best to only start seeing someone else after you and your spouse are separated first.
Of course, you’re still legally married to them but since you are separated, in the eyes of the law, you have stopped behaving as a married couple. So, once the separation is clear, you’ll have no issues with dating during the period.
Make your separation official
If you’re not to have any issues, you need to ensure that your separation is official. You want to do everything in such a way that your actions cannot be impeached either in or out of the court.
If your separation is not clear, especially as regards that date that the separation started, there could be issues later down the line when the divorce case is being heard by the court.
There are a number of ways to ensure that your separation is made official. They include the following:
- Create an official separation agreement: Apart from allowing you and your spouse work out the finer points of your divorce arrangement, an official separation agreement is clear evidence that you and your spouse have separated. The date on the agreement verifies that the separation was well underway when you began dating other people.
- File a divorce complaint: The date you file your first divorce complaint is the date when your separation starts. Ensure you don’t start seeing anyone before this date.
- Sever financial, economic and physical ties: If you have not yet agreed on a separation agreement or filed a divorce complaint you can sever financial and economic ties between you and your spouse. One of the ways to do this is by closing joint accounts. You will also need to sever physical ties. Move into another room or if possible, another apartment entirely.
Ideally, you should do more than one of these at the same time if you can. Failing to do what you should to ensure the separation is official may mean that your dating can be used against you in divorce court.
When would dating amount to adultery?
Done wrong, dating during separation can do you more harm than good. It can amount to adultery, which is a ground for a fault divorce in Pennsylvania. This means if you had a mutual consent before, it can get taken off the table and you’ll quickly find yourself with a very contentious divorce.
The instances where dating during separation may amount to adultery include the following:
If you are not fully separated from your spouse
This is one area where many people make mistakes. Incomplete separation, in the eyes of the law, is no separation. So, if you date another person at this time, it would essentially amount to adultery.
When would separation be incomplete? If you still maintain economic and social ties with your spouse. This includes going out together and representing yourselves as a couple in public.
If you continue to have marital relations with your spouse even after initially severing ties, then the separation period resets. Any other affairs you have during that period may be deemed extra-marital.
If you start dating prior to separation
Dating anyone prior to separation and then continuing after the separation will qualify as adultery. This is because the relationship would have begun while you and your spouse were still considered to be acting as a married couple.
In this situation, your new relationship may be used as ground for founding a fault based divorce in Pennsylvania.
If you cohabitate
Cohabitation will occur when you spend substantial amounts of time at the house the person you’re dating or if they spend a lot of time at your house. For instance, if they spend several nights at your house.
Cohabitation can occur even if they don’t live at your house. Your relationship, in this instance, may be considered adulterous.
It’s best to speak to a lawyer first
If your spouse can prove adultery in a divorce proceeding, it would have a bad effect on spousal support or alimony.
Your best bet in considering whether dating during separation would amount to adultery is to speak with a lawyer before you start anything. Often, the peculiar circumstances of your case would mean that the law applies differently to you, changing the scope of actions available to you.
If you like, you can speak with one of our lawyers for a no-commitment consultation on how the law specifically applies to your case.