In South Carolina, it is adultery to date while separated from your spouse unless a signed, written separation agreement or court order would allow it. Dating while separated can affect the outcome of your divorce case.
It could take months, or sometimes years, before a divorce is final in SC courts.
There are plenty of reasons to refrain from dating while you are separated from your spouse, and dating can affect the outcome of your divorce case.
In this article, you will learn:
- We will discuss when it is safe to date while getting a divorce in SC,
- How dating can affect your pending divorce, and
- How dating can affect other matters like
- What Effect Can Dating Have on Your Divorce?
How Dating Affects Divorce and Other Matters
Fault – Grounds for Divorce
"Dating" will most likely be construed as "adultery," a fault-based ground for divorce in SC. You could say, "Oh, we just met for drinks and watched a movie, which was platonic," but that may not matter.
The court may construe your actions as adultery if there is motive and opportunity. If your no-fault divorce suddenly becomes a fault-based divorce, it could affect every aspect of your divorce decree, including alimony, division of marital property, and child custody.
Adultery is not only a fault-based ground for divorce but also marital misconduct that the court will consider when deciding whether and how much alimony should be paid.
If you are the side who is paying alimony, the court may order you to spend more alimony because you engaged in marital misconduct like adultery. SC Code Section 20-3-130(C)(10) says that the Court when deciding alimony, can consider the "marital misconduct or fault of either or both parties, whether or not used as a basis for a divorce or separate maintenance decree if the misconduct affects or has affected the economic circumstances of the parties, or contributed to the breakup of the marriage."
On the other hand, if you were hoping to receive alimony from your former spouse, you should know that adultery is a complete bar to alimony in SC. If adultery is proven (before a settlement agreement or a written Order for separate support and maintenance), the court cannot award alimony to you.
Adultery can also affect the court's decision regarding the division of property.
Under SC Code Section 20-3-620, the court can give less property to you if the court finds "marital misconduct or fault… whether or not used as a basis for a divorce as such, if the misconduct affects or has affected the economic circumstances of the parties, or contributed to the breakup of the marriage."
Can dating someone while your divorce is pending affect child custody? You guessed it – of course, it can.
The court must consider the child's best interests when deciding which parent will take primary custody of the child, and one thing that the court may think is "immoral" conduct.
The judge might consider dating (adultery) while you are still married "immoral." If your child has been exposed to your new romantic partner, that could worsen things.
Another consideration is who your new partner is.
Even if you are legally allowed to date because the court has entered its permanent order of separate support and maintenance or approved your settlement agreement, your chances of getting custody of the children are diminished if the court hears evidence that you are exposing your child to someone who is an alcoholic, uses drugs, or engages in other illegal activities.
You Can Date While Getting a Divorce in SC If…
Many divorce attorneys will tell you, "No. You cannot date while getting a divorce." That does simplify matters, but it's not realistic for many clients. It's also not true.
You can date while getting a divorce in SC if you follow two rules:
- Do not date, flirt, or even look at a romantic interest sideways until the court has signed a permanent Order of separate support and maintenance or the court has signed a permanent Order approving your settlement agreement with your former spouse; and
- Be responsible about it – do not date anyone who has issues that could affect you in your divorce or child custody proceedings, and, for now, keep your romantic partner far away from your children.
SC Code Section 20-3-130 says that adultery is a bar to alimony only if it occurs "before the earliest of these two events: (1) the formal signing of a written property or marital settlement agreement or (2) entry of a permanent order of separate maintenance and support or a permanent order approving a property or marital settlement agreement between the parties."
It also says that marital misconduct such as adultery is a factor the court should consider in determining the amount of alimony and in the apportionment of marital property, but only "if the conduct took place after the happening of the earliest of (a) the formal signing of a written property or marital settlement agreement or (b) entry of a permanent order of separate maintenance and support or a permanent order approving a property or marital settlement agreement between the parties."
So, can you date while getting a divorce in SC?
With extreme caution.
Need Help with a Divorce in SC?
SC's divorce laws can be confusing, and there are plenty of myths out there that could negatively impact your case.
If you are considering separation or divorce in SC, contact an experienced Summerville divorce attorney immediately to determine your options.