State laws differ when it comes to dating during a separation. In Virginia, the law allows separated couples to date. However, before you sign up for a dating app, you should be aware of the potential consequences that can come from dating while your marriage is on pause. 

If you’re in doubt about how to proceed with dating while separated, the safest course of action is to consult a Virginia divorce attorney. A lawyer can review the specifics of your case and advise you on how to proceed with dating while separated in a way that reduces the risk of unwanted consequences. 

What Are Virginia Laws On Separation?

Many states legally recognize separation. In such states, a marriage remains intact during separation, but the spouses live separate lives. Virginia is one of a handful of states that don’t recognize legal separation. 

This means that couples in Virginia can only be married or divorced. Even if spouses choose to separate and one moves out of the shared family home, they’re legally still married in the eyes of the law until divorce proceedings are complete. 

3 Dangers Of Dating While Separated In Virginia

Since Virginia doesn’t technically recognize separation, “dating while separated” in Virginia is legally no different than dating while married in many ways. However, choosing to see other people before your marriage is over can impact your interests.

1. You Can Harm Your Child Custody Arrangement 

If you and your spouse have children, part of your Virginia divorce will include establishing a child custody agreement. This includes decisions like: 

  • Which spouse has custody
  • Where the children live
  • Who the children spend holidays with
  • The amount of child support payments owed

Seeing other people before your marriage ends can directly impact your child custody arrangement, and not for the better. Juvenile courts tend to look disapprovingly upon dating before a marriage has ended, particularly if children are introduced to the people their parents are dating. 

Courts typically try to grant both parents equal amounts of parenting time. However, dating while still married can lead to you not receiving custody or ending up with reduced amounts of parenting time.

2. Dating Can Impact Your Finances

Virginia recognizes both no-fault and at-fault divorce. When a married couple mutually decides to end the marriage, they typically opt for a no-fault divorce. However, dating while still married can end up giving your spouse grounds to file for an at-fault divorce. 

In Virginia, an at-fault divorce can impact how assets are divided and the amount of alimony one spouse is ordered to pay the other. Dating can lead you to lose out on alimony you would have been awarded or can leave you paying a higher amount than you would have paid if you’d waited to date until the marriage was over. 

3. You Risk a Misdemeanor

Dating before a marriage is over is technically legal in Virginia. However, the law doesn’t distinguish dating from otherwise associating with someone. Taking a date to dinner is legally no different than having dinner with a friend. However, that all changes when relationships turn intimate. 

Having sexual relations with another person while married is considered to be a crime in Virginia. If dating leads to sex, you can be found guilty of adultery and slapped with misdemeanor charges. This can further hurt the division of assets and lead to higher support payments and reduced parenting time. 

Planning for a Virginia Divorce

Virginia’s laws around divorce meant that attempting to navigate the world of dating before marriage is over can bring long-term consequences. If you’re reluctant to wait for your marriage to formally end before you begin dating, you should consult a Virginia divorce attorney for advice on how to move forward without facing unwanted consequences.