Before you can finalize your divorce in California, you must go through a 6-month waiting period.  During this time, you will still be technically married, but you may start living separately and getting on with your life after marriage.  Because the law still considers you married, dating or having relations with other people could technically be considered adultery and may have an effect on divorce proceedings.  The Ventura, CA divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth explain how California law handles dating while you wait to finalize your divorce.

Can You Date During the Divorce Waiting Period in California?

When you file for divorce, the absolute quickest that you can get the divorce finalized is 6 months.  In many cases, the waiting period is even longer because courts have busy schedules, as do you and your spouse.  During this waiting period, you might want to start dating again, sign up for a dating app, or have relations with someone else.  Unfortunately, the law might technically consider this “adultery.”

California law is not very precise on its definition of adultery.  Any relations with someone else who is not your spouse might count as adultery, but where does the law draw the line?  Some people might count dating by itself while others might not count it as “cheating” unless there’s intercourse.  Still others might say that thinking about someone else or signing up for a dating app is a step too far.

Fortunately, coming up with a concrete definition of adultery is not usually necessary.  While it might technically be considered “adultery” to date while your divorce is pending, this kind of adultery typically does not have an effect on your divorce.  Adultery is not grounds for divorce in California and does not affect alimony payments.  Moreover, adultery is not illegal, so there are no direct laws against dating while waiting for your divorce.

One of the few times that determining whether it counts as adultery to date before the divorce is finalized is when you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement with an adultery clause.  In these cases, the way that the adultery clause is written might still trigger penalties and increased alimony if you date during the waiting period.  Talk to a Santa Barbara divorce attorney for guidance on how dating while you wait for your divorce to be finalized could affect prenups or postnups.

Legal Effects of Dating Someone Else During Divorce

California is a no-fault state for divorce.  This means that the court does not generally look at the cause for the divorce when deciding whether to grant the divorce or when looking at issues like alimony/spousal support.

In other states, adultery, which could include dating while the divorce is pending, could count as grounds for divorce.  In those cases, the person claiming their spouse was unfaithful must prove the adultery in court to get divorced.  Not only is it extremely difficult to prove adultery unless you have photos or walked in on it, but it is also a private matter that people typically do not want to discuss in open court.

Because of this, many states allow no-fault divorces, California included.  In these cases, you do not need to prove anyone was at fault or accuse anyone of cheating to get the divorce.  Instead, you use “irreconcilable differences” as the basis for the divorce.

Other states also use adultery as a factor in awarding alimony and spousal support.  These states allow judges to increase the alimony of innocent spouses who were cheated on or reduce alimony to cheating spouses.  However, adultery or fault in causing the divorce are not factors in CA Family Code § 4320, and judges in California do not typically look at fault in alimony decisions.

The main time that dating during your waiting period might come up is with regard to your children.  If you having a boyfriend or girlfriend after filing for divorce causes distress in your family or exposes your children to health or safety issues, the court may factor those issues into child custody or child support decisions.  Situations where this might occur are rare, but you should still seek legal advice on how dating could affect your alimony, child custody, or child support during a divorce.

Can You Date Other People During Legal Separation?

When many couples file for divorce, they will stop living together.  At this time, some couples will opt to file for legal separation, making this separation official.  This allows them to establish alimony until the divorce is finalized, divide assets and debts, set child custody and support orders, and deal with some of the other issues related to divorce.

Many couples see the point of filing for divorce as the point that their relationship ends, even if their marriage is still official for another 6 months or so.  To memorialize that, some spouses may opt for separation agreements to declare their intention that any dating after that point is okay, and the terms of a separation agreement might explicitly acknowledge this.

Call Our Ventura Divorce Lawyers for a Free Consultation

If you are considering divorce and want to know when you can start dating again and how the divorce case will affect other rights, contact our law offices today.  The Ventura family lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth offer free legal consultations on divorce cases and other family law matters.  For a free legal consultation, call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555.