A question I frequently get from clients is, “When is it okay to date?”
In South Carolina, being married is kind of like being pregnant, either you are or you aren’t. The simple answer is — if you are married, you can’t date, and doing so is considered adultery. If you aren’t married, you are free to date whomever you’d like.
Being separated is not the same as being divorced! Living separate and apart is like a weird middle ground, but it is important to remember that you aren’t divorced yet! This means that things you do can still affect the divorce proceedings. Things like dating!
One might think that since the parties are separated and their marriage is irreconcilable, then what does it matter if I date? Or, the other person has a girlfriend or boyfriend, so why can’t I? You aren’t divorced yet, and dating is committing adultery. Adultery is still, by the way, a criminal offense in South Carolina.
Dating while separated can negatively affect a number of different things in South Carolina. Let’s take a look at a few big ones next.
How can dating impact….
…. a divorce?
Dating can turn a no-fault divorce into a fault divorce. A fault divorce alleges that one person did something to cause the marriage to break down. Adultery is a fault ground in South Carolina. The complaining spouse would still have to prove the adultery, but if you aren’t committing adultery, s/he will have a hard time doing that.
Committing adultery can also negatively impact property division for the person committing adultery. No-fault divorces really focus on being fair and equitable. If your spouse accuses you of adultery, things could get messy. Being able to fairly agree to property division without having to go before a judge about it may be best. Marital misconduct is one of the factors a judge can consider when deciding property division.
Dating can also negatively impact alimony. Committing adultery absolutely bars that person from receiving alimony in South Carolina. Dating while still being married could cost you lots of money. Let’s assume a person would have gotten $800 per month in alimony for five years, but they committed adultery. Being barred from alimony would cost that person $48,000!
…. child custody?
Dating may also affect who gets custody of the children. The court will use the “best interest of the child” standard. Dating before being divorced may not be looked highly upon and could be used against you, especially if you have exposed your children to your boyfriend or girlfriend. Your life will be closely looked at, and details will come out. You do not want to have to explain away a lapse in judgment while seeking custody of your children.
The Bottom Line
So, is there a safe way to date while separated? You can get an Order of Separate Support and Maintenance to determine issues like custody, property division, alimony, and child support before you get divorced, but there really is no safe way to date while separated. Exposing children to a boyfriend or girlfriend while married could be a change in circumstance which would put you at risk for losing custody.
Even though not dating means putting your life on hold for the time while your divorce is pending, moving on with dating may mean altering your divorce proceedings in a negative way. It just is not worth it. There will be a time when dating is appropriate, but it just isn’t the thing to do while you are still married.
Do you have questions about divorce in SC?
If you have questions about what is appropriate or not while you are still married, please contact a family law attorney. There is no reason to risk having negative effects on your divorce proceedings.