Marriages that deteriorate over a lengthy amount of time usually end in divorce, whether the split is contentious or peaceful. Family laws in Virginia are complex and confusing. The combination of those complexities only adds to the frustration and loneliness that results from a prolonged process that spouses must endure.
Those soon-to-be exes exploring the possibility of “getting back out there” should know that dating while pursuing marital dissolution in the state has certain restrictions written into Virginia law.
What Virginia law reveals
Virginia recognizes two statuses: married or unmarried. You cannot file for a status of “legal separation” in Virginia that would treat separated couples as legally single, like you can in some other states. Dating is an option during separation; however, acts of sexual intimacy are legally deemed adultery in Virginia. Yes, that even includes post-separation intimacy with someone other than one’s spouse. Suddenly, a no-fault divorce can become a contentious mess that lengthens the process.
Finalizing the divorce is one option to date consequence-free. Pursuing a binding separation agreement that resembles the divorce dynamic is the other. Property division, custody, and support will all be determined prior to finalization of any such separation agreement or divorce.
However, without a divorce decree, neither spouse can enter into the bonds of marriage, let alone reasonably play the proverbial field. Upon the formal filing, other issues are in play. Filing for a no-fault divorce means that no party is to blame for a marriage ending. If a spouse discovers that a sexual relationship between the other spouse and a third party is occurring, that can convert a no-fault divorce to a fault-based divorce, even if the relationship began after the separation. This is rare, but it does happen, especially where a finding of adultery could prevent the participating spouse from receiving spousal support.
Fault-based divorces can become highly contentious, especially if one spouse has committed adultery in the past. It can also affect the status of martial assets and spousal support.
Emotionally-charged issues can impair judgment. Jumping into another relationship can inflict emotional wounds on all impacted by the marriage crumbling. Careful steps in an attempt to keep the peace are advised.