Crystal Wright | June 16, 2023 | Georgia Law
Many people who are separated want to begin dating before their divorce is final. While Georgia does not make it illegal to date while separated, there is a catch that could cause problems in your divorce case. If your Georgia divorce is not final, talk with your Lawrenceville divorce lawyer to find out if you should wait or if it is okay to date.
Adultery Is a Criminal Offense in Georgia
You can date while you are separated, but sex may get you in hot water. Georgia Code §16-6-19 makes the offense of adultery a misdemeanor offense. A person commits adultery when they voluntarily have sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse. The maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is up to a year in jail.
Law enforcement officers might not charge you with a crime for having sex with another person while you are married. However, it could cause problems in your divorce. It is a gray area because adultery is a crime according to current law.
Therefore, if you date while you are separated, doing so could be risky and could jeopardize your interests. Merely going out with someone and holding hands could lead to allegations that you are having sexual intercourse.
How Could Dating During Separation Impact Alimony Payments?
If your spouse is able to prove that you had sex with a date before your divorce is final, it is adultery. It does not matter that you were separated from your spouse at the time.
Georgia Code §19-6-1 bars alimony payments if a spouse proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the separation was caused by adultery. Therefore, if your spouse can convince a judge that it is more likely than not that you had sex with a date, you might not be entitled to alimony payments.
How Does Dating During Separation Impact Child Custody in a Georgia Divorce?
Georgia judges decide child custody cases based on the best interests of the child. Dating could impact that decision in several ways.
For instance, if your spouse alleges that the person you are dating stays overnight at your home, the judge might see that as adverse to your child’s best interest. Also, if your spouse can find any negative information about your dates, they could allege you are exposing your child to a potentially dangerous or harmful person.
Dating multiple people during separation could be viewed as poor judgment, even if it is not. Each judge has different views about dating while you are separated.
Does Dating During Separation Impact Property Division?
Georgia is an equitable distribution state. That means a judge decides what is fair when dividing marital property during a divorce.
“Fair” does not always mean marital property is divided equally. A judge could award a larger portion of the marital property to a spouse for many reasons.
Dating during separation might not impact property division as much as it could affect alimony, child custody, and visitation decisions. The reasoning is that dating after your separation did not cause your divorce.
Does Georgia Recognize Legal Separation?
Georgia does not recognize legal separation. However, you can file for separate maintenance if you and your spouse live separately. During separate maintenance, you remain married.
A legal separation resolves the same issues as a divorce without ending the marriage. For example, you can sign a separation agreement that resolves child custody, child support, alimony, and property division. The court could then approve the order.
Because the courts determine what is in a child’s best interest, the judge could modify your agreement regarding child custody if they determine the agreement does not protect your child. Likewise, child support is determined by the Georgia child support guidelines. Therefore, a judge could also modify your agreement if the child support payments do not comply with the guidelines.
If you and your spouse disagree on child custody and child support terms, a judge could resolve those issues for you. However, a judge cannot order an equitable division of property in a separate maintenance action. You and your spouse must agree on how to divide marital property.
Contact a Lawrenceville Divorce Lawyer for Personalized Legal Advice
Spouses may choose legal separation instead of divorce for many reasons. For example, they might want to live separately but remain married to keep health insurance benefits. A couple might remain legally married because of religious or moral beliefs.
A Lawrenceville legal separation lawyer can explain your legal options, including the different consequences for each option. It is always best to seek legal advice to protect yourself and your children.
To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.
You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.