Written by Deborah Moy

November 20, 2019

A question clients often ask is whether it is okay to date while separated but not yet divorced. Well, the answer to this question (like the answer to almost every other legal question) is, "It depends."

Deciding whether to enter the dating world during divorce proceedings is a risk. There is no way around that. However, every person naturally craves companionship and going through a divorce is tough. Who will comfort you during these tough times? Often, the answer to this question before separation is your spouse. But your spouse is not around anymore!

In seeking comfort and direction, many people delve into the dating world with reckless abandon. If this is you, then there are few things you should keep in mind. The way you conduct yourself during the year-long separation period required by North Carolina law can have an impact on how your divorce is settled, especially if children are involved or if you are seeking spousal support, alimony, or equitable distribution.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the way you present yourself during the time after separation and before divorce can most definitely influence the way you are viewed in court.

If there are children involved, spending your money and time pursuing a romantic relationship may be viewed by the court as negatively impacting your children. As a result, the Court may find in your spouse's favor, finding that your goal is not in the best interest of the children. Your spouse can also argue that the love, money, and time you spend with and for your romantic endeavors should be spent on your children. Furthermore, if you bring the children around your new paramour, the Court may find that this exposure presents a negative emotional impact on the children. At the very least, the Court may find that your focus is not wholeheartedly directed toward your children.

If you are seeking support, whether it be post-separation support or alimony, quickly becoming involved in romantic relationships during separation may show the Court that you are able to find support through another or that you are not really in need of financial support. If you are galivanting around town with a new love on your arm, it will be difficult to argue that you are in need of support. Additionally, your spouse can argue that your romantic interest strayed from the marriage before the date of separation.

North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. This means that everything acquired during your marriage and up to the date of separation is shared equally. However, it is not wise to spend money pursuing a dating relationship during the separation period before the Court makes a determination as to how the money is classified. It is best to allow the Court to classify the money, as well as any property, as separate, marital, or divisible, before disrupting the process by disposing of what could potentially be considered marital funds.

The truth of the matter is that while you are going through the painful process of a divorce, your behavior will be under the microscope. The trick is to be mindful of how you present yourself, because any and everything you do during this time can (and probably will) be introduced in court. For guidance on how to navigate through the legal process of a divorce, contact our office, Quay & Associates, at (252) 649-0530.