The separation is under way. You’ve moved out, gotten your own place, and you’re starting to think about moving on with your life. You’re starting to notice other people when you go out and want someone to spend time with, someone who appreciates your company. In short, you’re thinking about dating again. While this may sound like a good idea, there are several problems to consider.
The best advice that you would get from your Raleigh divorce lawyer is simple—don’t do it. Dating can have both personal and legal consequences that can be harmful to your divorce action.
Under North Carolina General Statute 50-6, a couple must be separated for one year before a divorce is final. Even though separated, you are still technically married until the court enters the order granting the divorce.
North Carolina law still permits an action for “alienation of affection” against a third party whom the plaintiff feels is responsible for ending the marriage. Even if you did not begin dating someone until after the date of separation, a suspicious former spouse may see the new boyfriend or girlfriend as the cause of the marriage’s end and bring a court action. This action has a three year statute of limitations and doesn’t require sexual relations, unlike an action for “criminal conversation”.
The good news, however, is that both of these actions have defenses that can be raised in court. For “alienation of affection”, a defendant can prove that no love and affection existed between the husband and wife.
Another defense exists under General Statute 52-13, which allows a defendant to prove that an act giving rise to the claim for “alienation of affection” or “criminal conversion” occurred after the date of separation. Essentially, if you can prove that the relationship did not begin until after you separated, it hurts your former spouse’s claim that your boyfriend or girlfriend caused the marriage’s end.
Beyond these actions, dating can have an effect on any post-separation support you may receive. Under General Statute 50-16.2A, amongst the factors a judge can consider in granting support is any martial misconduct by the parties. Marital misconduct can include abandonment and “illicit sexual behavior.” A former spouse could use evidence of your relationship, similar to the “alienation of affection” and “criminal conversion” claims, to argue that you are at fault for ending the marriage and deserve less financial support.
However, emotions aren’t governed by logic and reason, and if you are absolutely insistent on being able to date before the divorce is final, your Raleigh divorce lawyer can help you by drafting a post-separation agreement, which is authorized by General Statue 52-10.1.
The post-separation agreement acts as a contract between the spouses during the period of separation. It can govern everything from financial support to relations between the parties. This can include dating, permitting each party to see other people without a fear of legal action or loss of support. In drafting the agreement, you should keep in mind that the terms will define what each party is permitted to do, so you and your Raleigh defense lawyer should be careful with what it says.
Again, the best thing to do while separated is to stay single. If you must, do consult with your Raleigh defense lawyer before beginning to see someone romantically and discuss your options, including the possibility of a post-separation agreement.