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7 Important Things To Know About Dating While Separated

by Jessica

The entire dating game is tricky as it is. Now think about how complicated things can get if you’re considering dating while separated from your spouse but not divorced yet. No matter how consensual and mutual the separation was, there will always be unresolved feelings and resentment toward your ex-spouse and vice versa. 

Until the divorce is finalized, these hostile feelings can not only get in the way of your chances of forming a solid bond with a romantic prospect but also have legal ramifications. That’s why it’s important to find out if you can date someone without being legally separated. With the help of advocate Siddhartha Mishra (BA, LLB), a lawyer practicing at the Supreme Court of India, we are going to find out all about dating while married. 

He says, “A person can date someone else after one gets separated from his/her spouse. Dating before divorce is final is not illegal or wrong as long as both the partners are not living under the same roof.” However, it’s best to avoid dating during trial separation and before legal separation if you live in a state where it might be weighed against you in a court battle. Only 17 US states are truly “no-fault”. A no-fault divorce is the dissolution of a marriage that does not require proof of wrongdoing by either party. 

Can You Date While Being Separated From Your Spouse?

Divorce is already a mentally and physically draining process. Most people can’t wait for the divorce to be finalized so that they can move on with their lives. Some start a new relationship even before signing their formal separation agreement because either the divorce proceedings are taking too long or they just met someone new and don’t want to miss out. But is it considered cheating if you are separated and not divorced yet?

Siddhartha answers, “No, it is definitely not cheating because you are already separated and living under separate roofs. In fact, many people consciously choose to start dating again at some point during their separation and before the final divorce decree is entered. However, if both partners are still living in the same house but have separate bedrooms and only one partner is thinking about divorce, then it can be construed as infidelity.” 

The legalities of it aside, you need to also ask yourself, “Are you ready to date?” You can date if you are soon-to-be divorced only if:

  • You are completely over your partner and don’t feel any connection with them
  • You have zero desire to reconcile with them
  • You have looked at the pros and cons of this permanent separation
  • You know everything about child support and property division
  • You aren’t dating to get over them, fill the void inside you, or make them jealous

Related Reading: 18 Subtle Signs Your Long-Term Relationship Is Over

Types Of Separation 

Siddhartha says, “It’s important to note that the term separated is actually a legal term in the eyes of the law. Separation refers to a relationship status that you get from working with the court system. You literally have to file with the court and go before a judge to get legally separated.” Before you start dating while separated, you need to know that there are three types of separation, and they can each impact your life differently. 

1. Trial separation or ambiguous separation

A trial separation is when you and your partner seem to be having a lot of problems and think about taking a break to decide what’s best for yourselves and your marriage. During this time, you start living under separate roofs and rethink the relationship. As a result, you may either opt for couples therapy exercises to work on your issues or realize that you can’t make it work and opt for divorce. If you and your spouse are currently in this phase, then it’s best to address a few issues:

  • How to manage finances
  • Co-parenting
  • Who is going to stay in the family home
  • Terms of the separation such as whether you’re allowed to date other people during this time 

2. Permanent separation

If you are already living apart from your spouse and have no intentions of getting back together, then that phase is known as permanent separation. Before you reach this stage, you need to talk to divorce lawyers and find out about property division, sharing of assets, child support, and such. 

3. Legal Separation

Legal separation is different from being legally divorced from your spouse. It is not equivalent to a divorce either. The difference here is that if you are dating while separated legally, you can’t marry that person. You can only marry them only if you have divorced your spouse. But the court’s order granting child support, property division, and alimony are all the same as getting a divorce. 

Related Reading: What Is Divorce And Why Do People Get Divorced?

7 Important Things To Know About Dating While Separated

Talking about legal consequences and answering the question of, can you date while separated, Siddhartha says, “Regardless of whether your separation will ultimately lead to a divorce or not, dating during separation and before a divorce can have its own set of risks. In the absence of a legal separation, you are still legally married to your spouse, and dating while married can pose a few risks.” What are these risks? Find out below the things you need to know about dating while separated. 

1. Your spouse can sue you for alienation of affection 

Yes, your spouse can sue you for breaking up a marriage on account of alienation of affection. In some countries, this is a crime. Alienation of affection is the act of interference in a relationship between a husband and wife. It is done by a third party without an excuse. This is a civil tort claim, usually filed against third-party lovers, brought by a spouse who’s been alienated due to the actions of a third party. 

Siddhartha says, “Your spouse can sue whomever you’re dating for alienation from affection, or blame you for adultery and use it as a basis for divorce. They can also use this as a means to extract child support from you. Dating while married can influence custody case decisions as well. If the divorce is happening without one partner’s consent or the partner is bitter and wants to see you suffer, then they can even demand full child custody.”

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2. You need to be financially stable 

During a legal separation or divorce proceeding, you may find that you’re hemorrhaging money at a much faster rate than you can compensate for. This can cause a lot of stress, as you spend a great deal of your time thinking about bank accounts, tax returns, and your monthly income and bills. Do you have the headspace for dating in the middle of all this? And can your decision to date affect the outcome of your divorce and leave you in deeper financial distress?

Siddhartha adds, “Dating can become an issue in child support and alimony cases in some states. The court reviews the income and expenses of each spouse for child support and spousal support. The judge may question your romantic interest and new partner to find out if it affects you financially.” 

3. Don’t hide anything from your new partner 

Divorcing couples should never hide anything from their new partners. Divorce is already exhausting. Having a romantic partner who doesn’t know anything about your divorce can complicate matters even more. Don’t lie to yourself, your spouse, and your new partner, especially if you are living at your new partner’s place. 

If you have children and have decided on co-parenting, then it becomes even more crucial that your new partner is in the know. Otherwise, it can have a devastating impact on them. It is wise to begin dating someone new with transparency and responsibility. This will help them to understand your situation in a more empathetic way. 

4. Rethink physical intimacy with your former spouse

Siddhartha says, “There are potential sexual complications that need to be pondered over before moving forward with dating someone during your separation. You need to factor in whether or not you’re still going to be having sex with your spouse. Some people still meet up occasionally during these separations. Even if you don’t see each other at all, you might still have plans of attempting to get back together, depending on how things go. Knowing this, it might not be smart to start sleeping with other people.”

If there is an on-again-off-again sexual relationship between you and your spouse, it’s not hard to see how it can complicate things with your new partner unless everyone involved knows what’s what and accepts the situation as it is. Even then, when feelings are thrown in the mix, dynamics can get supremely complicated. This can not impact the outcome of your divorce but also your new romantic relationship. 

Related Reading: Expert Advice – When To Call It Quits In A Marriage

5. Things to know about dating while separated — You need to heal emotionally 

Siddhartha shares, “It would be best if you also think about whether you’re emotionally stable enough to be dating anyone at this point. Being separated from your spouse or partner is likely going to put you in a strange emotional state. You might feel very anxious or nervous about what is going on. Some people even feel numb during situations like this. Either way, you’re likely not going to feel your best when you’re going through a complicated separation.”

So, if you’re wondering, “Can I date while separated before divorce?”, the answer is, yes, if you have healed from post-breakup depression and are not using this rebound date to numb your feelings. If you have children, it’s important to factor in if they’re okay with you dating while separated from your spouse. After all, it’s a traumatic event for them as well. Dating while married but separated won’t be considered adultery but your kids may be devastated after finding out that their parents have moved on and there is no chance of reconciliation. 

6. Avoid getting pregnant 

Getting pregnant while separated can be a whole other level of mess. If you get pregnant, the court may pause the divorce proceedings until the baby is born. The person bearing the child has to prove that their spouse is not the father of the unborn child. This can make an already taxing situation far more complicated with DNA tests and questions of paternity thrown into the mix. Even if you’re sexually active during your separation, be doubly cautious and practice safe sex at all times. 

7. Prepare your children for this massive change

If there is someone who is going to be as affected by your divorce as you, if not more, it is your child(ren). Their lives are going to change forever, and for them, it can be a scary prospect. When a new partner enters the equation, it can make your children’s insecurities skyrocket. Even if you decide to date, make sure you keep your relationship private unless you’re sure about your future with your new partner and until the divorce has been finalized. 

If, for some reason that is not possible, talk to them as candidly as possible, reassuring them that this won’t change your role or place in their lives. For instance, if you are living at your new partner’s place, it’s best to ask them if they want to stay with you or at their old home. 

Dos And Don’ts Of Dating While Separated But Not Divorced

The decision to date before getting divorced is yours to make. Should you choose to go down that road, it’s important to handle this situation as delicately as possible. Here are some dos and don’ts of dating while separated:

Dos Of Dating While Married  Don’ts Of Dating While Married 
Date yourself first. Spend quality time with yourself and heal emotionally before you tap into the dating pool  If you are no longer romantically involved with your spouse, then let them know so clearly. Don’t give them false hopes and keep them waiting 
Do let your new partner know everything about the divorce and why your previous relationship reached its inevitable end  Don’t date someone new just to aggravate or antagonize your ex
Do tell your kids the things they need to know about your decision to date during your separation if keeping your dating life under wraps is not possible Don’t do anything that will help your ex and their divorce lawyers to use it against you 
Do spend time with your new partner without the shadow of your impending divorce looming larger on your bond  Don’t get pregnant before the divorce is finalized 
Do respect the legal boundaries of divorce and understand how dating may impact the outcome   Don’t involve your kids in your new love life unless absolutely unavoidable because they could still be reeling from the traumatic event of their parents getting separated 

Key Pointers

  • Dating while separated is not cheating if both spouses are aware and have no intention of getting back together
  • However, dating while separated can be extremely tricky. It’s important to make sure you’re emotionally ready and understand the possible legal, financial, logistical, and emotional ramifications of this move
  • If you are nervous about dating again, then take your time. You don’t have to make any decision in haste

Divorce is not easy for anyone involved, even if you’re ending a toxic marriage, and can put a person’s mental health in a dark place. You need to be fully prepared. It’s best to avoid dating until you are both legally separated and emotionally divorced as well. However, if you feel strongly that you’re ready to date again and don’t want to put your life on hold anymore, by all means, go ahead but make sure that you don’t make this decision without considering all possible ramifications.

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