Did you know that there are literally thousands of sexy, available singles in your local area just dying to meet you? Well according to the sponsored adds on my laptop, that is the scenario we face in Mecklenburg County. You and your spouse just had your first talk about separation and divorce… and now the sultry sirens’ call of all these sexy singles is getting harder to ignore. When can you start meeting some of these wonton strangers without incurring the puritanical wrath of North Carolina Family Court Judges? This article details the legality and pitfalls of dating before, during, and after separation and divorce.
Dating Before Separation (Colloquially known as “cheating”):
Welcome to the Great State of North Carolina, where the neighbors are friendly, the Cheerwine is cold, and the laws haven’t changed since the Victorian Era. North Carolina is one of five US States, including other paragons of modernity like Mississippi, South Dakota, and Utah, that still recognize the civil claim of alienation of affection. Alienation of affection allows a spouse to sue a third party for destroying their marriage. Alienation of affection is known as a “heartbalm tort,” because nothing soothes the sting of an unfaithful spouse like a cool twenty grand. You are not allowed to sue your spouse for alienation of affection… just the person your spouse cheated on you with. The person seeking a claim of alienation of affection must prove that genuine love and affection existed between the married couple, and that the third-party maliciously destroyed and alienated that love and affection. So before embarking on your affair, consider crossing the border into Virginia to avoid not only getting divorced, but getting your boyfriend or girlfriend sued in civil court. Remember, “Virginia is for Lovers.”
Infidelity also affects alimony in North Carolina. If the Court finds that a dependent spouse (meaning a spouse who needs financial support and maintenance from the other spouse) engaged in an act of illicit sexual behavior with someone other than their spouse, during the marriage and prior to the date of separation, the Court will not award the dependent spouse alimony. Conversely, if the Court finds that a supporting spouse engaged in an act of illicit sexual behavior, the supporting spouse is required to provide alimony. If both of you have unforgiven affairs, then alimony is still on the table.
Dating during Separation:
In North Carolina you are allowed to file for a divorce from your spouse a year and a day after you separate. Contrary to popular belief, there is no document or magical Latin phrase that needs to be uttered to establish that you are “separated.” You simply need to live under a separate roof (no, living in the basement and ignoring your spouse doesn’t count) for 366 days. Once you are in that separation period, technically it is not marital misconduct to start seeing someone else even though you are still married to your spouse. North Carolina General Statues Chapter 50 defines the relevant window of illicit sexual behavior as “during the marriage and prior to or on the date of separation.”
In Jurassic Park, Dr. Ian Malcolm tells John Hammond, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” While I am in no way comparing your attempts at post-separation dating with resurrecting the dinosaurs, there is wisdom to be found in Dr. Malcolm’s musings. Technically you can date whoever you want after you separate from your spouse without committing marital misconduct. However, if the goal for your divorce is to have a quick and amicable split, you may want to hold off on dating until the ink has dried. Goodwill and a willingness to negotiate evaporate once you start posting Facebook photos with your new significant other. And even if you don’t flaunt your relationship, or attempt to hide it, your spouse will unfailingly find out. If custody of minor children is involved this is particularly true. See how reasonable your spouse is about 50/50 custody when she drops the kids off for visitation and your 22-year-old sugar baby answers the door. So while we won’t tell you that you can’t date during your separation period, we strongly advise against it.
Dating during Separation:
This is where our expertise ends. Good luck out there, and remember, you are not divorced, you are “experienced.”