Cheating on your spouse can be a serious accusation.  Adultery during a divorce can make interactions with your spouse harder and hurt negotiations and settlement discussions.  The legal effects of adultery in California may not be as serious as the effects in some other states, but they can still affect your divorce case.  The definition of adultery is often hazy.  Our Santa Barbara divorce lawyers discuss the definition of adultery and whether dating during separation is considered adultery in California.  For a free legal consultation on your case, contact the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today.

Definition of Adultery in California

Adultery is often defined vaguely.  Some may agree that adultery means having a sexual affair while married, while others might draw the line at kissing or flirting.  In some relationships, especially open marriages, adultery may be a non-issue if the spouses have agreed to allow other relationships or trysts.

In many cases, proving adultery is difficult because it is very hard to know what goes on between two people behind closed doors.  However, if you can get photographs of the spouse and their paramour together, text messages between the two, or an admission from either party, proving adultery can be easier.

Can You Date After Filing for Divorce?

In a California divorce case, there is always a 6-month waiting period.  Once you file for divorce, you must wait at least 6 months before your court date.  Many cases will actually take longer since the court schedule may be crowded or you may need multiple court dates before your case can be finalized.  During that waiting period, you may be separated from your spouse.  How does that affect your ability to date?

Many states have required separation periods for divorce cases.  Instead, California’s required waiting period is not necessarily a separation period.  California law does not require you to live separately and apart and is even okay with you continuing to live as a married couple while you follow the 6-month waiting period.  However, many couples choose to move apart and start living separately as soon as they file for divorce.

During the waiting period, you are not “legally separated.”  To become legally separated, you have to file for legal separation instead of divorce.  Many couples do that first and then modify their petition later to file for divorce once the legal separation is taken care of.  Still, couples may be informally separated if they move apart or start separating their finances while they go through the waiting period.

Whether a couple is formally or informally separated, they are still married.  That means that any extramarital relations or dating during this period could be considered adultery.  However, couples can agree that their relationship is over from the time of filing or the date of separation.  In that case, they may agree that any affairs after that point are not adultery and that dating is okay.

How Does Adultery Affect My Divorce in California?

While adultery may be a social error and could cause problems in your relationship, it does not often have legal consequences in California.  California is a no-fault divorce state.  This means that all divorces are based on “irreconcilable differences” rather than fault grounds such as adultery, abuse, or abandonment.  Accordingly, courts typically do not address adultery in a divorce case when looking at other factors or issues.  Lastly, adultery is not a crime in California.

The effects of adultery on a divorce case are limited since there are no direct legal consequences of cheating.  However, there are less direct ways that adultery could affect your divorce case.

The main way that adultery can affect your case is if you have an anti-adultery clause in a prenuptial case in your case.  Many couples choose to use prenuptial agreements when they get married.  These agreements are signed before you say your vows, and they work to control many aspects of a divorce case from the outset.  One clause that many couples choose to include in their prenups is a clause dealing with adultery.  These clauses are typically triggered by cheating and alter the default asset division or alimony plan, often giving more to the person who was cheated on or less to the cheating spouse.

Adultery may also affect your divorce case by straining negotiations.  If you and your spouse divorce on bad terms, it may be more difficult to come to an agreement about the terms of your divorce.  Settlements often have better outcomes than the decision that the court makes about your alimony, child support, and child custody since you can be involved in the decision and customize it to better fit your needs.  If you and your spouse have increased tension between you, it may be harder to negotiate and agree on the terms of your divorce.  If negotiations break down entirely, you may have no choice but to argue your case in front of the judge and accept whatever terms the judge decides.

Call Our Ventura Divorce Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation

If you need legal advice on whether it is okay to date while separated or you need an attorney to represent you in your divorce case, call the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today.  Our Ventura family law attorneys may be able to help with your divorce case and work to protect your assets and get you the divorce you want.  For a free legal consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (805) 643-5555.