Legal and moral considerations are at the heart of this debate and the answer is not always clear.  Legally, the laws of each state differ and can have varied interpretations of fault.  The ramifications of a relationship prior to finalizing your divorce can also vary based on each case, the judge and state. 

It helps to know each spouse's expectation for separation 

Separation can be based on an interest to defuse a failing relationship with the hopes of reconciliation through outside measures such as counseling and therapy.  Otherwise, your separation could begin as a segue to permanent dissolution of your marriage.  Since communication is often a problem in failing marriages, it comes as no surprise that often there are conflicting expectations, reasons and goals of the separation.  One spouse may have the expectation of reconciliation while the other may be focused on a divorce.

In order to avoid adding more problems to an already complicated situation, it's best to error on the side of caution during a typical divorce.  The decision to date and/or have sexual relations with someone prior to a legal and emotional dissolution is usually a responsive decision and premature.

However, in some cases, it's realistic that either spouse would consider dating prior than the legal dissolution is complete.  In these situations, the emotional divorce has been established while the legal battle has not.  While either spouse may feel ready to move forward, it's still very important he/she understands any legal repercussions in doing so.

Below we have listed the specifics of both moral and legal implications regarding a relationship prior to your divorce.


Dating someone after the legal separation has been established, outside of certain circumstances, may not be considered adultery in some states.  However, there may still be legal repercussions in doing so.  

Outside of living together, when the relationship begins, does however have a reasonable impact in most states.  If it happens before you separate from your spouse and the original decision to divorce was precipitated by the affair, in many states, it could be considered as grounds.  

Even if the dating relationship was started after the couple was separated, the other spouse may still bring an action claiming the relationship was the cause of the marriage's end.   

Adulterers may raise defenses as condonation and/or recrimination in some cases.  Most states consider adultery as grounds for divorce and some still regard it as a crime, though rarely prosecuted. 

Consult a licensed attorney for details specific to jurisdictional law as applied to your circumstances. 

What could a judge do?

If the case goes before a judge, an extramarital relationship may be considered when determining spousal support, equitable distribution and the overall judgement.  

What would the ex do?

Divorce involves a mixture of emotional decisions that bring about legal outcomes.  The effect of a spouse's physical relationship with someone outside of the marriage can induce heightened emotions that can provoke a spouse to bring about added legal expenses and battles that are easily avoided when abstaining from a pre-divorce relationship.

What does DMK think?

In the interest of reaching the best settlement in the least amount of time, with the least amount of frustration, it is best to avoid a relationship that may hinder that outcome.

Moving in together

If you plan to reside with another individual prior to a judge's decision on support and property division you should know that having shared living expense and any negative impact on the children in the household may affect his/her decision when making decisions regarding your settlement and custody arrangements. 

If it is not a committed relationship that will mirror the longevity of your settlement, it may be a bad decision to live with someone regardless of your current situation.  Also, based on a typical length of time to recover following a divorce, a relationship that forms prior to the end of your marriage is often re-bound in nature as opposed to a lasting one.  


As mentioned earlier, communication issues plague couples who are separated and/or proceeding towards divorce.   Regardless of words that are said, matters of the heart can produce false expectations and misunderstandings that can lead to terrible outcomes. 

Moreover, the impact of separation prior to divorce can change each spouse's feelings for one another.  Those feelings are not usually shared with each other over the course of the separation unless counseling and/or therapy has been added to improve the couple's communication. Therefore, the choice to increase tension in a difficult situation with a new dating relationship, regardless of the assumed outcome of the existing marriage, would be unwise.

If counseling or therapy has been on-going throughout the separation and/or a legal separation has been initiated to improve the relationship, then the choice to engage in relations with another person could be highly liable both ethically and legally.  

In some cases...

You're the only person who can morally justify or denounce such behavior during these troubled times.  In some cases when a divorce can extend a great length of time it may be difficult for many individuals to abstain from a new relationship specifically when there is no goal for reconciliation and no marital-like relationship with your spouse. 

While you must weigh legal, religious and ethical considerations, your emotional and mental health should be considered as a priority to maintain a healthy outlook away from the on-going divorce.  It is best to seek guidance from trained mental health professionals and legal advisors who can assist you in making choices that will positively affect you and your family's life. 

Your spouse is dating while separated

If your spouse is the one who has entered into another relationship and neither have shown interest in a reconciliation, you should distance yourself morally and emotionally from your spouse and his/her decisions.  While you may have strong emotions over these decisions, you have no vested interest in his/her moral compass.  Your only interest will be legal considerations and your emotional well-being.  

Try not to let your spouse's new relationship cost you more in time and money while pursuing nonbeneficial legal recourse based on your emotions.  Unless a legal advisor suggests doing so, in the best interest of your settlement, don't make your life worse by "punishing" your spouse through legal means.  The end result may not be worth it and in later years a regrettable decision.

You will want to continue to develop a support system of trusted friends & family who can help you cope with your divorce and it's effect on you and your family.


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