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Is It Adultery to Date While Separated?

by Danielle Wright

Separation from your marriage can be tricky to navigate, especially for the spouse who felt blindsided by the divorce and is interested in dating soon after. Since 70% of women initiate divorces in America, it's not uncommon for their soon-to-be ex-husbands to head back out on the prowl. Some may determine that a separation, which is usually the prerequisite for a divorce, is a good enough reason to begin dating again. However, there are some things to consider:

  • Divorce separations take on different forms.

  • Separation laws vary by state.


Trial Separation: This is an informal separation where the couple lives apart for a period to decide whether they want to continue their marriage. One spouse may stay with their parents or friends or rent another home.

It's usually a temporary situation and has no legal standing, requiring no legal paperwork since the couple remains legally married, and marital obligations and rights remain intact unless otherwise agreed upon. In such a case, dating or having sexual relations with someone outside of your marriage is considered adultery for moral reasons, not legal ones.

Permanent Separation: This occurs when a couple decides to live apart permanently but does not file for divorce immediately. It may not involve a legal agreement, but marital rights and obligations may change, especially debts and property acquired after the separation. It might seem safe to date around and even commit to a relationship with someone else during this time, but it's not fair to the other person.

Many couples in this scenario remain legally married due to health insurance reasons or other joint responsibilities they cannot or refuse to lose. The person you're dating during this time is not in a position to receive any benefits, which places them in a position not to benefit from their union with you. It's easy for a will to go unchanged, and even after 40 years of being in a different relationship, your new girlfriend or fiancé may receive nothing, and assets may well be given to the ex-wife.

Legal Separation: Legal separation involves a court order that mandates the terms of separation, including custody, support, and property division, without terminating the marriage. The couple remains married and sometimes this can be converted into a divorce later on. Often, this feels like a permanent separation, where couples may forget to update their paperwork and assets information, potentially leading to a past partner inheriting your assets.

Separation Agreement: A separation agreement is a legal document agreed upon by both parties outlining the terms of their separation, including financial agreements, child custody, and support. This document provides a clear, mutually agreed-upon framework for the separation period. If this interests you, consult with a lawyer to draft up this legal document for you.

Controlled Separation: Controlled separation involves a structured agreement facilitated by a mediator or counselor, focusing on reconciliation while living apart. Similar to counseling, you and your spouse meet once or twice a week to discuss marital issues but do not share the same home.

This approach is common, especially when children are involved. However, one person dating another during this period can be seen as adultery, potentially leading to legal consequences depending on your state laws. It's crucial to clarify the type of separation you and your partner aim for to avoid confusion and further complications.

Permanent Legal Separation: Permanent legal separation resembles legal separation but with no intention of reconciling. The couple remains married for reasons like religious beliefs or financial benefits. It's unwise to cheat or date outside the marriage in such situations unless both parties agree to it. Otherwise, the hurt party may proceed with a divorce, citing infidelity as grounds, depending on local laws.

By understanding these different types of separation, couples can make informed decisions that align with their circumstances and legal obligations. Consulting with legal professionals is advisable to navigate these complexities effectively.


Some general considerations include understanding the difference between legal separation and divorce. Legal separation means you are still legally married, even if you live apart, and this status can impact dating. It's crucial to be transparent about your separation status when dating to ensure honesty in your new relationship.

Adultery laws are applicable regardless of whether you disclose your separation status to a new partner, and they can significantly impact divorce proceedings. Until you are legally divorced, you remain married, and both custody and alimony can be affected if adultery is perceived as detrimental to family stability.


  • North Carolina: Dating during separation can be considered adultery, impacting alimony and divorce settlements.

  • Maryland: Adultery is grounds for divorce, and dating while separated can be used against you in divorce proceedings.

  • Georgia: Dating while separated is considered adultery and can negatively impact divorce settlements and custody decisions.

  • South Carolina: Dating while separated can be seen as adultery and affect divorce terms.

  • Alabama: Dating while separated can complicate divorce proceedings.


In no-fault divorce states like California, Florida, Texas, and New York, divorce can be granted without proving fault or wrongdoing by either spouse. The person filing for divorce simply needs to state irreconcilable differences or that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This approach contrasts with fault-based divorces where specific grounds such as adultery or abuse must be proven.

Please note, this information serves as a general guide and not legal advice. Consulting with a legal professional is advisable for personalized guidance regarding divorce and separation laws in your state.


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