A common question I get in relation to divorce is whether you can date while your divorce proceedings are pending. The term people use is “legal separation,” and they want to know what that means. There are some states in the United States that allow for legal separation and for dating while your divorce is pending? Is Virginia one of those? No.
So how do you protect yourself while your divorce is pending?
How can dating impact your divorce?
As discussed above, there is no such thing as “legal separation” in Virginia. Until you are formally divorced by a court order, Virginia law still considers you to be married. Virginia law also has adultery as a grounds of divorce. If you date while your divorce is still pending, and the other side does not, that fact can be used against you in a number of different ways.
The first is property distribution. Virginia is an equitable distribution state. This means that marital assets and debt are divided based on what is “fair.” The court will take into consideration fault based grounds of divorce when deciding what is fair for property distribution purposes. If one of the parties is engaging in adultery, that can be used to obtain more assets.
The second effect is child custody. Courts in Virginia are reluctant to grant primary custody to a parent who is dating and has that person around the kids. Virginia law has restrictions on such “cohabitation,” and will generally favor the parent who is not dating. Therefore, dating while a divorce is pending can impact custody.
Finally, adultery is still an antiquated crime in Virginia. Dating during the divorce proceedings, while unlikely, may result in criminal proceedings.
How to protect yourself?
There are different types of divorce in Virginia, and one of those types may be able to allow you to start dating. Whether you qualify for this type of divorce will largely depend on the facts of your case. Most attorneys will encourage you to get a separation agreement executed with your ex before dating, and refrain from dating while the divorce is pending.
Speak to a lawyer if you are considering dating during your divorce proceedings. Your lawyer can let you know what your rights are and help prevent an unfair outcome.