Is it okay to go dating while your divorce case is ongoing? This is a commonly asked question with a somewhat complex answer. Further complicating things is the fact that the answer varies depending on which State in the U.S. you’re in.
This guide will sort it all out for you. While the real deal will depend on your unique circumstances and the State you’re in, it should give you a good idea of the consequences—if any.
You’re about to learn:
Let’s start with what your lawyer will probably tell you right off the bat:
NOTE: This article is a guide only. Consult your divorce lawyer for legal counsel.
As you’ll soon learn, it’s not illegal in most states to go dating before the divorce is final. That said, it’s generally not okay to do so. And you’ll notice that it’s more strongly discouraged in some States than in others.
Why is it generally not okay? There are several reasons, the foremost of which are the following:
Some quick legal trivia: There are two kinds of divorce cases: Fault-based and no-fault.
In States where fault-based divorce cases are an option, a spiteful spouse can frame your new relationship as proof of adultery. While it’s a long shot, it is possible for a court to take the charge seriously.
And that can change your previously mundane no-fault case into a fault-based one. Now, the odds become heavily against you.
Needless to say, if you’re in a State with fault-based divorce, you’ll need to be extra discrete with your dating efforts.
Even in no-fault cases, your new dating habits can become an issue. It adds an unnecessary layer of complexity that will make the case drag on for much longer.
The general agreement (especially in no-fault cases) is to split your marital assets with your spouse 50-50. If, however, they can prove you spent marital funds on your new relationship, they can claim what’s called “marital waste.”
How much you spent from the marital estate will be deducted from your divorce settlement. If that’s not bad enough, calculating precisely how much was spent can extend the case duration even further.
If you have kids, then you must understand this: Their parents’ divorce is stressful for them. Among many other things, it cuts into the parenting time they deserve. Dating and introducing your new partner to them, especially before the divorce will stress them out even further.
My advice? Spare them.
And speaking of introducing children to your new romantic partner: It’s a big mistake. In many States, judges take your moral fitness into account when deciding which spouse keeps the kids. If the judge finds out what you did, it can complicate your chances at getting custody.
The longer your case drags on, the higher your legal fees will be. It’s in everyone’s best interests to keep everything as short and sweet as possible.
Overall, the drama you’ll raise by dating carelessly before the divorce is final will stress you out. You’ll take much longer to recover, and don’t you deserve better than that?
If the court finds out about your partner, it might force them to testify or be deposed. That’s stressful, and if you care about them, date discreetly.
Hopefully, you now have an idea why it’s generally not okay to date before divorce. If you keep things under wraps, you can probably pull it off, but even then, it’s best to play it safe.
Now, let’s say you’re well aware that it’s inadvisable, but you decide to do it anyway. More power to you. Just do everyone concerned a favor and keep the following rules in mind:
Being “physically separated” means you’re no longer living with your spouse under the same roof. In most cases, it won’t count if you’re in different rooms, wings, or even different houses in the same compound.
(Another bit of divorce trivia: Some states will only grant a divorce after you and your spouse have lived separately for a specified period of time, usually 6-18 months. Even if you just stayed in the same hotel for one night, the clock resets.)
Dating someone new while you’re still living with your spouse is just asking for trouble, so it's best to avoid it.
Even if your spouse has already moved out, it’s a bad idea to introduce the kids to your new beau. Aside from stressing them out even more, the court can find out it. They’ll see you as prone to making poor choices, which can impact your case negatively.
Ladies, don’t get pregnant; Gents, don’t get your new girlfriend pregnant. As with introducing your new partner to your children, it’ll show the court you’re prone to making bad choices in life. So, keeping your pants on—that's a good rule to follow.
Make no mistake: Potential new partners will start showing interest in you. When they do, be honest about your situation—you’re going through a divorce, and now’s probably not a good time to start dating.
Hiding the fact won’t end well.
It’s always a good idea to have a support group. Find people in a similar situation as you: Going through a stressful divorce case, quite lonely, and feeling the urge to be desired again. Completing the ordeal becomes much easier when you have like-minded people to share it with.
If you don't know where to look, your divorce lawyer may be able to point you in the right direction.
Now that you’re aware of the do’s and don’t’s of dating during a divorce, let’s look at your prospects of doing so in each of the 50 States.
It’s not illegal to go dating while your divorce case is going on in The Heart of Dixie, but it’s generally discouraged for the reasons we’ve already covered. Also, adultery is a Class B misdemeanor here, which is something to consider in a fault-based divorce state like Alabama.
Things in Alaska are similar to Alabama in the sense that adultery can be used as a basis for a fault-based divorce, but it won’t affect the adulterer’s chances of getting alimony or custody support.
Adultery is considered a Class 3 misdemeanor in The Grand Canyon State, so dating is somewhat more strongly discouraged before the divorce is final.
Arkansas is a fault divorce state, meaning anyone can file for divorce on grounds of their spouse’s impotence, felony, alcoholism, or adultery (among other things).
The Bear State does grant no-fault divorces, but only if you’ve lived separate and apart from your spouse for 18 months. That’s a long wait, considering the clock resets if you even spend one night together.
Perhaps not surprisingly, California has no laws against adultery, and dating while your case is ongoing is generally seen as acceptable. That means you’ll have a much lower risk of your activities affecting your case negatively.
Colorado is one of the country’s 17 “no-fault” States, meaning only no-fault divorce cases are ever filed. Even if your spouse caught you with your new partner and claimed adultery, it will have little, if any, effect on your divorce case.
That said, that doesn’t mean it won’t stress out your children, so exercise your due diligence, nonetheless.
As it is with Colorado, adultery has little effect on Connecticut divorce cases. While the Constitution State allows for fault-based cases, instances of cheating rarely affect even these.
Delaware is another “no-fault” State, and judges are explicitly ordered to disregard infidelity as a factor when deciding custody, alimony, and division of property.
Likewise, Florida is a no-fault divorce state. Adultery, while rarely prosecuted, is still a crime, and may sway judges when evaluating your moral fitness.
Dating while going through a divorce is strongly discouraged in Georgia. Unlike some states that recognize legal separation (or living apart from your spouse), cheating is still considered a crime.
While it may not have a bearing on the division of property, it may have an effect on child custody, visitation rights, and alimony. So, if you’re in the Peach State, be on your best behavior.
Hawaii is a no-fault State, so infidelity has no bearing on the outcome of your case. The usual risks apply, but you’re generally free to date around here than in other States.
Idaho is another no-fault State, but your indiscretions can become grounds for your partner to file a fault-based case. Cheating, when it happens after a divorce case is filed, is considered a crime.
So, while in the Gem State, keep things under wraps.
In Illinois, dating while divorcing has no legal consequence on your case. That said, think twice before introducing your new partner to your children—that can jeopardize your case.
Indiana has no laws against dating while you have an ongoing divorce case. Also, while The Hoosier State allows for fault-based cases, adultery is not considered grounds for it.
Iowa is one of the generally “safer” States to date while your case is around, and your indiscretions won’t be viewed harshly.
Kansas is interesting in the sense that it allows for “bifurcation,” or declaring a couple legally divorced even before all their case’s issues have been resolved. That allows you to begin dating, and even remarry, sooner.
So, unless the adultery happened prior to filing the divorce case, you should be fine.
The standard advice prevails in The Bluegrass State: if you date before your divorce is final, your spouse might accuse you of adultery. It’s a minor legal issue that may prove financially costly for you in the end.
So, while in Kentucky, it’s best not to date during divorce—or if you must, make it a confidential relationship, and keep the children out of it.
Louisiana is one of the only three States (the others being Arizona and Arkansas) with “covenant marriage,” where couples are required to attend premarital counseling. If you and your soon to be ex spouse are one of few covenant couples out there, you’ll need to take marital counseling before going to court.
Besides that bit of uniqueness, The Bayou State is like most States: It’s okay to date while going through a divorce, but it’s better not to.
Committing adultery can be grounds for divorce in Maine, and if the accusation is made after your case has been filed, it’s more likely than in more lenient States to cause you difficulty.
In Maryland, dating while divorcing is more strongly discouraged than in most other States. For a no-fault case to be finalized, you’ll need to live apart from your spouse for one year.
If you started dating and having sex with someone else before that year is over, that can be considered cheating. If your spouse presents evidence of it and the court takes it seriously, you can be in trouble.
The norm prevails in The Bay State. There are no laws against dating while still married, but it’s discouraged as it might affect your case in a negative way.
Michigan is a no-fault state, but adultery is still considered a felony. While it’s almost never prosecuted, it can still affect the outcome of your case.
Called “marriage dissolution” in Minnesota, divorce is a serious matter where dating is more strongly discouraged than in other states. If you live here, it’s best to avoid any behavior that might antagonize your spouse in the middle of the case.
There’s no legal separation in Mississippi, which means it’s probably better to wait for the divorce to be finalized before you start dating. Otherwise, you’ll be tempting a shift to a fault-based case.
Missouri is a no-fault State, so even if you cheated on your spouse before the divorce case was filed, it wouldn’t affect much. Still, even if it’s safe to date around, it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie.
Like Missouri, Montana is a no-fault State. Judges cannot consider marital misconduct when deciding on alimony and property division.
Still, you’re still liable to jeopardize child support, and you'll need to reimburse what you wasted from the marital property. So, again, it’s best to play it safe.
Nebraska law states individuals cannot remarry until six months and one day after their divorce is granted. Dating, however, has no such restrictions.
What about during divorce? The same rules apply: If you want your case to go smoothly, avoid dating around.
In Nevada, you’re generally free to do whatever you want while your case is ongoing. Your only reasonable concern should be to avoid wasting marital assets before it’s finalized.
Dating during a divorce is strongly discouraged if you’re in New Hampshire. NH divorce courts tend to favor the innocent party, and dating before the case is finalized is not innocent.
Divorce cases in New Jersey can be on fault and no-fault grounds. As with most other states, dating around isn’t advised while the divorce proceedings are going on, as it helps your spouse’s position and hurts yours.
There’s no law against adultery in New Mexico, but that doesn’t mean your spouse won’t take it against you and not bring it up in court.
Despite New York judges being more progressive than most, fault-based divorce cases are still accepted in the Empire State. Being accused of cheating before it’s finalized will be unhelpful to your case.
You can breathe easy in North Carolina—you’re generally free to go dating even if you’re only legally separated from your spouse. One of you has to move out, though.
North Dakota accepts divorce cases on fault-based grounds, so your indiscretions can be used against you. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t have sex—when in The Peace Garden State, keep the peace by any means necessary.
Dating another person while you’re still married in Ohio can result in custody issues. There’s no law against cheating, but it may make the judge see you as an unfit parent.
About your new dating partner: What if the kids met her or him? That’s even worse—the case will likely be ruled heavily against you.
While there are restrictions on remarrying after divorce (six months), there are no such restrictions on dating in Oklahoma. So, our usual due diligence advice applies.
The State of Oregon only handles no-fault divorces, so adultery has little bearing on the outcome of your case. There are the usual possible negative effects on child custody arrangements, so be discrete.
Before granting a no-fault divorce, Pennsylvania courts will require you to live apart from your spouse for a year. If you have sex with someone new and get caught, the cheating accusation can make the case fault-based, hiking the time, money, and stress necessary to get it.
Needless to say, avoid dating in Pennsylvania until the divorce is legal.
Adultery is a crime in Rhode Island, and it carries a $500 fine. It’s also grounds for a fault-based case, so avoid taking things that far.
Adultery is also a crime in South Carolina, and it carries with it a fine and jail time. That said, it’s almost never enforced, so date at your own risk.
Cheating is grounds for a fault-based divorce in The Mount Rushmore State, so tread the South Dakota dating game with caution.
Dating before the divorce is final is considered marital misconduct in Tennessee, even if no sex took place. It’s strongly suggested to wait until the case is finished before you start seeing someone new.
What’s the Texas law on dating during divorce? It’s technically adultery, that’s what. It’s strongly discouraged while your divorce proceedings are going on.
Infidelity is not a crime in Utah, and a no-fault divorce can only be finalized after the divorcing spouses have lived separately for 91 days. If you can wait that long before dating, I suggest you do.
Vermont is one of the many hybrid States, meaning they handle both fault-based and no-fault cases. As it is considered the best practice in all other States, the no-fault way is best—and waiting until after the divorce process to date is more than worth it.
There’s no such thing as a “legal separation” in Virginia, so you’re considered legally married until the divorce is granted. That said, adultery is not a crime, so you’re free to date as long as you keep the usual risks in mind.
Washington is like most of its fellow no-fault States where accusations of adultery will hardly, if at all, affect your case’s outcome. You’re generally freer to date around while waiting for the resolution, as long as you don’t make any silly mistakes.
Like Vermont, West Virginia is a hybrid State. If you want to minimize the money, time, and headaches you’ll go through, go the no-fault route and avoid dating in the meantime.
Adultery is a serious felony in Wisconsin, fetching fines of up to $10,000. It’s also rarely prosecuted in the State, so as long as you stay in good terms with your spouse, you’ll be in the clear.
And lastly, Wyoming is a no-fault-only State, so your spouse will have next-to-nothing on you if they catch you cheating. As always, keep the usual risks in mind.
This guide covers everything you need to know about dating during divorce. However, do understand that every case is different, and yours has its unique circumstances and conditions. To find the strategy that works best for you, your spouse, the kids, and everyone else involved, get the legal services of your divorce attorney.