Sex and Dating After Separation but Before Divorce: What’s Appropriate?
In most divorces, there is a period after the marriage is over in the minds of the parties, but before the marriage is over in the eyes of the law. This is a difficult period for both parties, because they're torn between two competing ideas: fidelity to the now-ended but not legally finished marriage, and equally strong desire to move on and start a new life.
That's probably why so many divorcing people have questions about sex and new relationships. At what point is it appropriate to start seeing someone new? Can you have sex before you're divorced? And, if children are a part of the equation, how soon can I introduce the kids to my new "friend?"
Some of these questions are not the most appropriate questions for lawyers to answer. What choices you may make with respect to raising your children, for example, is definitely not our area of expertise. Lawyers do sometimes have to offer advice in these situations to help prevent our clients from making mistakes, in their excitement over having a chance to start fresh, that may have legal consequences for them down the road.
After you've checked out of your marriage, you may feel like you're more or less back "on the market." You may even meet someone, maybe more quickly than you ever expected. Is that okay? Let's be real here: you and I both know that this is definitely risky territory. Whenever you start a new relationship before you've finished the old one, there's a risk. That is especially true when your old relationship was a marriage. When it comes to meeting new people, it's a dangerous until you've signed a separation agreement (or until after your trial), because you don't want to do anything that would arouse suspicion. Even if you aren't having sex, the appearance of impropriety on your part can cause mistrust on the other side, which can slow down your divorce. You CAN see people, of course, but use your best judgment.
Okay, so what about sex? Again, once you've signed a separation agreement, it's less risky–but it's still adultery (and therefore still a misdemeanor in Virginia) until you've got that Final Decree of Divorce with the judge's signature on it. Before you've signed an agreement, it's a very bad idea. If your husband can prove that you've committed adultery (and, remember, it's even adultery if you've already separated), you could be prevented from asking for spousal support. So, when it comes to sex, tread carefully.
And what about your children? Until there is an order preventing you from doing something (like having unrelated overnight guests when the children are present), legally speaking you are allowed to do it. Is it a good decision? I can't really answer that for you. I would say, however, that if you would be angry with your husband for having his new girlfriend over while the children are there, then it would probably be a good idea if you didn't do it either. It's probably also not a bad idea to consider your children and where they are in the whole process. Would it upset them to have a new person around so quickly? If so, it's not a bad idea to put it off for a little while longer.