Can I Date Before I’m Officially Divorced?

What are the rules on engaging in a sexual relationship while separated? Is it considered adultery to date someone before my divorce is final?

Can my girlfriend or boyfriend spend the night before I’m divorced? Transcript

Hi, I’m Lee Rosen. Can my girlfriend or my boyfriend sleep over, spend the night, before I’m divorced?

You’ve separated. Time is passing. We have a one year waiting period to get divorced in North Carolina. You’ve started dating, it happens, it’s natural. One year is a long time. The question then arises, is it okay to engage in a sexual relationship? The answer, prior to divorce, is generally, “No, it’s not okay.” There are a number of legal issues and an emotional issue. You need to be very careful about this, and I want to say right up front that part of what we’re going to talk about in this video is a crime.

There is a criminal act that can be involved in dating and so I want to explain that to you, but I need to be very clear with you that as an attorney in North Carolina I have an ethical obligation to advise you not to commit crimes. So my answer on this question is ultimately going to be “no,” but I want you to be fully informed in case you decide to do it anyway.

So the first legal issue is that adultery in North Carolina is still a criminal offense. It’s been on the books for a very long time, and it’s still a crime to have a sexual relationship with another party while you’re married to someone else. You just can’t do it. Now the reality of this is that we don’t see prosecutions for this crime. I’ve been practicing for a long time, and I’ve never seen someone prosecuted for adultery in North Carolina.

Does that mean that it’s not going to happen to you? I don’t know. Realistically it’s on the books, it is a crime. A district attorney could prosecute you. My advice to you has to be don’t commit a crime. So be aware of that fact.

Now the second issue is that adultery corroborates evidence of adultery that took place prior to separation, and that becomes relevant in an alimony case. So here’s what I’m saying. If you start sleeping with someone now, after you’ve separated, before your divorce, it helps your spouse to prove that you were sleeping with that person before you separated. The evidence can be used to corroborate the pre-separation adultery. So that’s another reason to be very, very careful about dating, even after you’ve separated, during that period before you get divorced.

Finally, there’s the emotional issue. I’ve watched case after case where dating after separation has caused the situation to explode. For example, in a recent case we were negotiating, negotiating, negotiating a very complicated deal. We were this close to signing the agreement, just on the verge, and our client walked in on the spouse entering a restaurant with a date. Boom, things blew up. The agreement fell apart. It was like we were back to the drawing board.

Dating just is such an emotional trigger. If you can wait, I really encourage you to wait. The last thing you need is for your negotiations to fall apart because of some casual encounter you never expected. Be very careful. The bottom line on dating during separation is that I have to tell you don’t do it. If you’re going to do it anyway, then be careful about it. Don’t broadcast it on Facebook. Don’t be very open in public about it. Be very careful. The last thing you want to do is trigger an outburst or trigger an upset that causes things that were going along fairly smoothly to fall apart.

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