There is no criminal penalty for dating or otherwise having relationships with others while you are married, whether separated or not. There is no criminal penalty for adultery in Alabama. Adultery is only a grounds on which you can get your divorce and may come into play when a potential judge is dividing the marital assets at a future trial, but that is usually the most important legal consequence of adultery, cheating, or otherwise dating while married. If both parties are in agreement on all marital issues such as division of marital property, custody, and child support then one party’s adultery will not really matter.
Legal separation is similar to divorce in that you need to file a petition for separation with the court and a judge will divide marital property, decide on custody matters, and determine whether financial support (e.g., alimony) is necessary. Relationship issues are a very personal matter, and some people prefer a legal separation instead of divorce for several reasons. Sometimes one or both parties feel reconciliation may be possible, one or both parties may have religious objections to divorce, and sometimes parties may opt for legal separation in order to stay on a spouse’s medical insurance. That is why it is important to speak to a local Alabama divorce lawyer before you decide whether to file a legal separation or divorce.
In Alabama, it is not illegal to date while you are legally separated. However, just because you are legally able to do it doesn’t always mean that you should. It is important to consider the possible effects of dating or committing adultery on any pending or future divorce case, even if you are legally separated. A legal separation does not terminate a marriage, so if you do decide to get married to someone else, you must file for divorce from each other first or you would be technically married to two people at the same time. This is called Bigamy and although District Attorneys do not always investigate these types of cases to prosecute, it is still a Felony in Alabama. If you do date during your separation, it could affect a number of considerations when you eventually move forward with a divorce.
Judges have a lot of discretion in awarding assets, custody, and alimony. Consider how it would be viewed by the court, especially if minor children and custody questions are involved, if you are dating while still separated from your spouse. There are also possible financial impacts of dating. If you begin to cohabitate with a boyfriend or girlfriend while still separated, the court may determine that you require less in the division of assets since you are now sharing the cost of living with someone else. This is especially true when it comes to awarding alimony or spousal support.
There are also the personal issues when it comes to dating while divorced. If your spouse has not started dating but you have, then consider how they will react. Would this prompt them to file for divorce? Would it make them more likely to cause more difficulty during the divorce process by demanding a lot of your joint assets or alimony as retribution? How would your children react to finding out you were dating while still technically married to their other parent? Would it be stressful for them? The effects of your decisions could be far-reaching and impact many more people than just you.
Separation is a stressful process, but so are relationships. If you decide to date someone while you are separated, then you open yourself up to even more stress in your life. You need to make sure that you are working through the emotions that come with being separated in order to process what is happening. Separation can also be a very stressful time for children and extended family (e.g., your siblings and parents). Dating could make those relationships more complicated. This is not to say that it cannot be done, but there are a lot of factors to consider to make sure that dating is worth it.
During the separation and possible divorce process, your life will, frankly, be put under a microscope. The court will want to know anything that could influence its decisions in awarding assets, custody, child support, and alimony in the legal separation or later when you decide to divorce. While it is not against the law in Alabama to date while you are separated from your spouse, you should carefully consider the consequences of doing so.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, and real estate closings on this website. He is always available in any of the firm’s offices or by phone anytime for a consultation. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply any feedback. We appreciate our readers and love to hear from you!