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Can You Date While Separated in Missouri?
It’s not illegal in Missouri to start a romantic or sexual relationship while your divorce is ongoing but it is also unwise. Your marriage is still valid until a divorce decree is issued, consequently, behavior like dating may cause a judge to reconsider important issues like child custody and property division.
First of all, we know what the reality is between divorcing couples. Some marital relationships end long before divorce. The spouses may live apart, mutually agree their relationship is over, and free each other to date other people. But the legal reality is something different. Dating before finalizing your divorce can have negative effects on your finances and parental rights.
Here are some legal implications of dating before getting officially divorced in Missouri. For legal advice specific to your case, experienced family law attorneys.
Can I Date Someone Else While I’m Separated or Going Through Divorce?
In Missouri, spouses who have separated are still legally married, even if they have a separate maintenance order. The same is true for spouses who are going through divorce – their marriage remains legally valid until the divorce is finalized. Any relationship that either of them starts outside of this marriage could be viewed as an affair or a form of infidelity.
However, Missouri has no laws against infidelity or adultery. Further, any affair during the marriage won’t have an effect on the court’s divorce judgment. This is because Missouri is a “no-fault divorce” state, which means the court doesn’t need to find fault on the part of either spouse when deciding on the divorce decree.
Even if one spouse is accused of having an affair, the judge cannot use this to punish him or her when giving court orders. Most judges in Missouri don’t even consider the spouses’ romantic or sexual relationships during the divorce proceedings.
In other words, dating during separation or divorce isn’t punishable per se. However, it can have negative implications on property division, alimony, and child custody.
How Dating Before Divorce Affects Property Division
The judge may not care about either spouse’s dating life, but if there’s evidence of misconduct involving marital property, it can be a major factor in property division. For instance, if one spouse used marital assets to sustain an affair, that spouse will likely get a reduced share of the property.
In a contentious divorce, an extramarital affair could also become reason to suspect that the dating spouse has hidden assets. The other spouse may allege that certain assets have been transferred to a third party, whether or not as an intentional attempt to conceal the property. When such allegations surface in court accompanied by evidence, the judge will not look favorably on the spouse with the affair.
Dating Before Divorce May Sway Alimony Judgments
The “conduct of the spouses during the marriage” is also one of the statutory factors that a judge has to consider when deciding on alimony or spousal maintenance. On its own, dating may not have an impact, but if it resulted in depleted finances in the marriage, the judge may be swayed to favor the other spouse who did not have an affair.
Another scenario is if one spouse has started cohabiting with a new partner. This could be taken to mean that the cohabiting spouse receives support from the partner, such as financial contributions or the sharing of living expenses. If you are seeking spousal maintenance while you’re supported by your new partner, it could factor into your alimony computation and lower your maintenance award.
Dating Before Divorce Can Impact Child Custody
If you have a child and hope to get physical or legal custody, it’s best to postpone dating or at least be discreet about it until the custody case is done. The court always aims for the child’s best interests, which include emotional stability and consistency. Bringing a new adult into the child’s life may cause them confusion and uncertainty – a possibility that the judge may want to avoid.
The judge will scrutinize your new partner’s background, including their work history, any history of substance abuse or violence, any criminal history, and if they have children of their own. If there’s any question about your child’s safety and wellbeing in the presence of your partner, it may harm your chances of getting custody.
Finally, your dating life could be used by your spouse to paint an unfavorable picture of you as a parent. They may raise concerns on propriety, your moral judgment, or the environment that the child would have around you and your partner. The judge will of course need compelling evidence to back these concerns, but it’s best for you to protect yourself through discretion and with the help of an attorney.
Contact a Divorce Attorney at Shea Kohl Law
It can be complicated to navigate the law while you’re separated or going through divorce. To protect your rights and entitlements, reach out to a reliable Family Law attorney. In St. Charles and nearby areas in Missouri, Shea Kohl is the trusted firm for divorce, separation, and child custody issues. We have over 100 years of combined experience, which can be your advantage in complicated family situations.
Your consultation with us is completely confidential. Call Shea Kohl Law at (636) 946-9999 today.
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Shea Kohl Law, LC serves clients in Missouri including St. Charles, Troy and Lincoln and throughout Warren and St. Louis counties. We also serve clients in Illinois.