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Should You Date While Legally Separated in Tennessee?

Franklin divorce attorney explains the dangers of dating before divorce is final

Divorce can drag on for a long time – sometimes even years. Often, the marriage is over long before divorce proceedings even begin. So many people are ready to start dating again before the divorce is final. Since they have no intention of reconciling and since divorce proceedings are moving forward, they may see no reason why they shouldn’t start to see people again. Unfortunately, in Tennessee, dating while you are still technically married – which you are, even if you are separated and living apart while the divorce is proceedings – can have a negative impact on what you are awarded in the divorce.

There are 15 grounds for divorce in Tennessee, and two of them are “inappropriate marital conduct” and “adultery”. You may not think it so, but sexual activity during separation fits into one of these grounds. If you are dating during your separation and others know about it, this is inappropriate marital conduct. Having an online dating profile could be enough to show that you are dating. Your spouse can use these things against you in the divorce proceedings.

I’m an experienced Franklin divorce attorney, and the issue of dating has come up many times in my clients’ divorces. I always tell my clients to wait until the ink is dry on the Final Decree of Divorce before they start dating, no matter how long the divorce proceedings may take and how difficult it may be to wait. If you date while you are separated and your divorce case is proceeding, you risk being awarded a lower alimony amount or no alimony at all, being denied primary custody of your children, and being given fewer of the marital assets.

A judge may decide that if you are dating while separated, you may be using marital assets for things like dinners at expensive restaurants or overnight stays in hotels. In that case, you may not be awarded as much from the marital estate. If you are living with someone before the divorce is final, a judge may decide that you have additional financial assets and so do not need as much alimony. Even if you are not living with someone, a judge may decide that your dating during the separation means that you are not able to make wise decisions as a parent and should not be designated the primary custodial parent. There are also practical concerns, as your spouse may become very upset about your dating and thereby make it much harder to settle your case.

Though it may be tempting to begin dating and to move forward with your life – especially if you have already met someone to whom you are attracted and feel a connection – it’s just not worth it. When you date while you are separated, you risk forfeiting marital assets, financial support, and even time with your children. Even if you think you can date in secret, don’t attempt it. Your spouse’s attorney may hire an investigator who can discover that you have dated, and that information can cost you. If you have already started dating, call me, Judy A. Oxford, an experienced Franklin divorce attorney, to help you start taking steps to protect your interests and build the strongest case for your claims as we can. Call my office at (615) 791-8511 or use the secure online form to schedule a free consultation. We’ll help you settle your divorce as quickly as possible so you can start moving on with your life, including dating again.