When Can I Date?

When it comes to dating, the laws in North Carolina & South Carolina differ significantly. In this episode, your host and guide, Attorney Leigh Sellers, breaks down some of those differences and provides actionable advice to keep you on the right track.

Key insights from the episode:

[1:30] – How the timing of when you start dating can impact your divorce case

[2:02] – When you can start dating in North Carolina

[3:30] – The unintended consequences of dating during divorce

[6:14] – When you can start dating in South Carolina

[6:39] – The significant legal impact adultery can have on your case

[7:23] – How dating during divorce can affect your children and your child custody case

Links to Statutes Discussed

Adultery – South Carolina: SC Code § 20-3-130SC Code § 16-50-70

Adultery – North Carolina: G.S. § 50-16.1A & G.S. § 14-27.20

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The insights and views presented in “Welcome to Splitsville” are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Nor does tuning in to this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind. If you’re ready for compassionate and reliable legal guidance on your journey through divorce, contact Leigh Sellers and her team at http://www.TouchstoneFamilyLaw.com

Read Full Transcript

Hello there. Going through a divorce? Considering one? Sorry to hear that, but here you are. Welcome to Splitsville. You’ll find Splitsville to be a pretty unique place. A new world really, with its own rules, its own expectations and in many ways, its own language. But don’t worry, you have a knowledgeable guide along the way, a family law attorney with three decades of experience under her belt.

And now, here she is. Your host and guide, Leigh Sellers.

Hi everyone, and thanks for tuning into another episode of Welcome to Splitsville. I’m your host and guide, Leigh Sellers, founder of Touchstone Family Law. And, in this episode, I’ll be answering another question that many newcomers to Splitsville have, “When can I date?” So let’s dive in.

Even though people are just ending a relationship, you would be surprised to know how many people want to know when can they date. Often, they want to date very, very quickly. If I’m lucky, my client will ask me this question and they will tell me that they want to date. They will ask my advice. If I’m not lucky, the other side informs me that my client is dating someone, and that’s usually not the way I like to find out about it because the timing of whether or not you’re dating when you’re also going through divorce litigation, it really is important. It has more of an impact on your situation than you might think, and it differs from state to state as to how much of an impact it’s gonna have.

Since I practice in Fort Mill, South Carolina and also in Charlotte, North Carolina and we’re right on the state line and so many people live in one state and work in the other, this can actually cause a great many problems in my cases. In North Carolina, if you are already physically separated from your spouse, if you start dating someone, there’s really no harm no foul. You’re not living together and they don’t consider post-separation relationships as adultery, or post-separation relationships as having any impact on the marriage, even though you’re still legally married. The courts don’t really take much notice of it. Now, there’s an exception to that.

If you have actually been in a relationship with somebody before you separated and then you become public with it after you’ve separated, you’re probably going to create the suspicion that must have been involved with this person before the relationship actually ended. There could be some inquiry and if they can find proof in your conduct after separation that suggests that there was a pre-separation relationship, then that can come back and potentially ding you as there being proof of adultery.

I’ve actually even had people who moved right in with their girlfriend from the marital home and tried to take the position that they didn’t start dating until after the separation. Not surprisingly, the judge didn’t find that to be plausible. It seems silly, but go ahead and ask. Ask if it’s going to have any impact on your litigation. As another note, whether it has a legal relationship to your divorce case. Even in North Carolina, even if you’ve separated, if you start dating another person after you have broken up with your spouse and your litigation or your negotiation of your separation agreement or the legal issues are still being worked out and you don’t have a completed separation agreement or completed consent orders, I can tell you that 99.4% of the time, your being involved in a relationship with another intimate partner is going to have a tremendous psychological impact on the negotiations and what we’re doing.

The spouse that has been left behind, the spouse that feels like they have been abandoned, the spouse that feels like they have been discarded, the spouse who has had their feelings hurt, that didn’t want the separation or didn’t want the divorce, is going to be much more difficult to deal with when you very publicly move on as if you do not miss them, are not sad about the end of the relationship and that they are no longer important in your life. There are lots of psychological impacts on how they deal with the legal issues that I just don’t enjoy dealing with as your attorney.

I beg my clients to please not date until we have finished inking all of the documents that are related to their first divorce because I just can’t even explain how difficult it makes negotiating the simplest thing when somebody’s feelings are hurt on the other side because they’re not dealing with it from a sense of, “What’s the legal rule about this?” They’re just mad or hurt. Every decision they make is tinged with that. If they can possibly hurt my client who has decided to date, they will. It just doesn’t help us get the work done for you. So if there’s any way that you can exercise a little self-restraint during that separation period and just be a little lonely for a while, I would encourage it. Give your lawyer the room they need to get the work done for you, if you can.

Probably if you talked to a psychologist or a psychiatrist, they would agree with me that it really is just better psychologically for you to put one relationship to bed before you begin another one, sort of have a clean break that everything’s tied up with one of them to the best of the … of your ability before you pursue another one. I would suggest you actually talk to therapist about that. I’m not a therapist, but I see the impact that it has on the people that I’m trying to negotiate legal solutions for when one side’s dating and the other side isn’t, even if it’s legal. Now, you can completely discount that if both of you were mutually involved in ending the marriage and you’re both moving on or the other person truly has zero problem with you moving on.

If you’re in South Carolina, it can be a little more complicated so I wanna make sure I point this out since I do practice in both areas. In South Carolina, it is adultery until you’re divorced. In South Carolina, it doesn’t matter if you have been living separate and apart from your spouse for two years. If you start dating and having an intimate relationship with another person prior to your divorce decree, it is considered adultery and it can have tremendous legal impacts on your case.

Adultery in both North Carolina and South Carolina bars a spouse from receiving alimony. It’s a very strict bar. If you are a person who would have anticipated receiving alimony from a spouse and you are found guilty of having committed adultery in the marriage, then they will deny you the right to recover alimony, so it can be a really expensive mistake to make. It is adultery one way or another in South Carolina until a judge has finally signed the divorce decree. In South Carolina, do not date until you are divorced, period. It will be adultery and it can impact your case. Definitely, if you’re gonna disregard that advice and do it anyway, at least talk to your lawyer and understand how it’s gonna impact your situation.

That also bleeds into how does it impact your children. If you have children and you start a new dating relationship, that’s also going to cause issues. If you have not completely resolved your custody situation and one of you starts dating and starts bringing a new girlfriend or boyfriend around the minor children of the marriage, that’s gonna cause a lot of problems. Most judges have tremendous problems with it. Certainly the other spouse has tremendous problems with it. A lot of therapists find that it’s problematic for the children who are still reeling from and trying to reconcile their own parents living separate and apart and how that changes their life, and how that changes their relationship with that parent. Then you turn around and introduce another romantic partner, that’s important to you as their parent, into the mix and it is a complicated road to travel.

If your case is not final, it is definitely going to impact how those negotiations go. Again, each state deals with it a little bit differently. I will tell you, in South Carolina it’s considered much, much more negative than it is in North Carolina even. You’ve gotta remember that in South Carolina since it’s adultery until you get divorced. If you’re dating and your custody case isn’t finished, you’re also not divorced yet. So they’re very, very strict about it there. It’s gonna have a much more negative impact on your case in South Carolina than North Carolina if you’re dating and your custody isn’t resolved. Just be sensitive to it and talk to your attorney about how to handle it and how to deal with the situation if it is your fact.

I will tell you that I’ve told people for a very long time not to date and so few of my clients actually listen to me, that I’m assuming anybody listening to this podcast is also gonna disregard this advice. When you go ahead and ignore the advice and start dating, at least talk to your attorney about how we can mitigate the impact of that decision on your case, because it is going to be an important thing to think about. Lastly, dating, such a strange term. In reality, adultery is establishing that you had a sexual relationship outside of marriage. Not following the Bill Clinton definition of what is or isn’t sex, there are statutes that define what is going to constitute adultery and illicit sexual conduct.

If you’re not sure whether or not you’re committing adultery, there’s a very specific and very graphic definition of it in both state statutes in South Carolina and North Carolina. I won’t bore you with those salacious details right now, but talk to your attorney because they can read it to you and if you are unclear as to whether or not you are actually committing adultery or having sex, we can explain it to because it’s been very clearly defined for us. You might find it very interesting. In case I’ve really piqued your interest, we’ll link both of those statutes on the blog notes so that you can go read them yourself if you’re really interested.

So there you have it, another neighborhood of Splitsville explored. There’s still so much to learn here, so I hope you’ll tune into the next episode. While Splitsville is not a fun place to be, thankfully it is full of helpful people, valuable resources and sound advice, if you know where to look. See you next time.

The insights and presented in Welcome to Splitsville are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Nor does tuning into this podcast constitute an attorney/client relationship of any kind. If you’re ready for compassionate and reliable legal guidance on your journey, contact Leigh Sellers and her team at touchstonefamilylaw.com.

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