So you’ve filed for divorce. After years in a loveless marriage, maybe you’re wanting to play the field. A lot of people ask if you can start dating before the divorce is final.

There are a lot of things to consider before you create that new dating profile. So before you download Tinder, you should know how dating before your divorce is over might impact your case.

Dating Can Lead to a Fault Divorce

South Carolina recognizes fault divorces. A fault divorce is when one spouse argues to the court that the other caused the marriage to crumble. If a court finds you at fault for causing the marriage to end, it affects your share of marital property. It can also affect your child custody rights in some cases. (But we discuss that later in this article.)

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Fault and No-Fault Divorce?

Adultery is one of the reasons someone can get a fault divorce in South Carolina. The definition of adultery is very broad in South Carolina.

It can be dating someone during the marriage, which most people understand adultery to be. It can also be dating someone after you filed for divorce. Remember, you’re still married until you get the divorce decree. This is true even when you’re separated. You can’t just get “legally separated,” either. South Carolina doesn’t have legal separation. Instead, you can get an “Order of Separate Maintenance.”

Even then, your spouse has to prove you committed adultery. In South Carolina, your spouse needs to show that you had the opportunity and the inclination to commit adultery. If you choose to date, you should go out to public places.

Imagine this: your spouse, trying to prove adultery, hires a private eye to follow you. The private eye takes photos of your new significant other’s car in your driveway.  Your spouse could spin a tale of opportunity to commit adultery based on these photos.

Sometimes, it’s easier to avoid that risk altogether. Keep outings to public places with others (that is, witnesses).

Dating Can Prevent You From Getting Alimony

Alimony, or spousal support, might be on the line if you date while separated. You might not be able to get alimony if you date before you get the divorce decree. You could be in trouble if your spouse learns about your dating life. Your spouse might pursue a fault divorce based on adultery.

Adultery is an absolute bar to alimony in South Carolina. This means that if the court finds that you were dating while you’re still married, you won’t be able to get alimony.

You should tread carefully if you’re eligible for alimony–that is, if your spouse was the main breadwinner during the marriage.  

If you earned most of the money in the marriage, then this might be less important–at least for alimony. It still can affect you, as we discuss below.

Dating Can Affect Property Division

Property division: aside from children, it’s the most contentious part of a divorce. In a no-fault divorce, courts try to divide property in a fair and equitable manner. Keep in mind, though that “equitable” doesn’t mean equal. The judge takes a lot of factors into consideration when dividing property. This includes who gets the house, who gets primary custody of the kids, and so on.

If there is one dating rule you choose to follow, this is it:

Do not date until after you have temporary orders. Temporary orders hearings happen maybe a month after you or your spouse file for divorce.

Dating someone before you have temporary orders will work against you. The court might count your dating life against you when dividing property. This rule usually is in play when your divorce goes to trial. Divorce trials are hectic and difficult for both spouses. Going to trial also risks getting a result you don’t want. 
Still, you’re in the best position to negotiate when your spouse has nothing to hang over your head.

Dating Can Affect Child Custody

South Carolina courts consider many different factors to determine child custody arrangements. The court’s main concern is what is in the best interests of the child.

The judge will look at factors like which parent provides better for the child and where the child fits in best. Your dating life might go under the microscope, too. And it can be uncomfortable.

Judges look at whether you are in a relationship after filing for divorce. They also want to know if your romantic partner stays the night. You might be concerned about this. After all, what goes on in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom.

But the court’s concern is stability in the child’s life. It can be confusing for a young child, or even a teenager, whose parents are together one day, and divorcing the next. Next thing the child knows, dad now lives with another woman. It puts an enormous amount of stress on the child. Sometimes they feel like a ping-pong ball during a divorce. A parent dating someone new can hurt parent-child bonding.

If you choose to date after filing for divorce, don’t have overnight guests when your children are around. This could limit your parenting time with your child.

So Can I Start Dating or Not?

You should consider these things before you start dating after separation. Many of our clients want to move on with their lives. They want a new beginning. This can be especially painful if you are seeking a no-fault divorce. A no-fault divorce requires you to live separately for one year before the court finalizes the divorce.

That means one year of your life down the drain.

One year you can’t meet someone else.

It can be a depressing thought.

But you might not have to wait that long. The court might issue an “Order of Separate Maintenance” during the divorce case. An Order of Separate Maintenance determines a lot of the issues you see in a divorce. It settles child custody, child support, alimony, insurance, and some other issues. Most couples get a no-fault divorce if they get an Order of Separate Maintenance. Be aware, though. These orders are temporary. The court can change them before it finalizes the divorce.

In the end, choosing to remain single until the divorce is over is the safest way to go. But your lawyer is just your lawyer. We can’t stop you from dating. In fact, we want you to be happy. But we also want to help you protect yourself.

Keep these concerns in mind when you’re charting your path for your future. Your divorce will be over before you know it.

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