It is not uncommon for separated spouses to want to move forward with their romantic lives, particularly if the separation is lengthy. However, because Virginia law does not recognize separation as the end of a marriage, there can be consequences to dating before the divorce is final.
How might dating while separated impact your divorce?
Fault vs. no-fault divorce
Couples can seek a no-fault divorce after a period of separation. However, if one spouse has been dating during the separation period, the other can file for a fault-based divorce on the grounds of adultery.
Potential consequences of a fault-based divorce filing
Virginia courts consider various factors when determining whether a spouse should receive spousal support as part of a divorce settlement. When a divorce occurs because of adultery, the spouse who committed adultery may not be able to receive spousal support.
A fault-based divorce can also impact property distribution. Courts must divide property equitably, but this does not always mean dividing it equally. If the court determines you are at fault for committing adultery during the separation period, you may receive less of the marital property than you otherwise would have.
It is not uncommon for divorcing spouses to object to their children being around the romantic partners of their ex-spouse. Dating can negatively impact your chances of getting primary custody of your children if the courts decide it is not in their best interest.
Because of these risks, it may be best for separated couples to avoid pursuing new romantic relationships until their divorce is final.