Skip to main content
Request Appointment
Career Opportunities Contact SEARCH

"Separated" is Not "Divorced" - April 2014

April 22, 2014

by Anne C. Lahren

So your marriage is ending and you're eager to put the past behind you. Time for a rebound relationship!... or is it?

For many reasons it is far better to abstain until after the divorce is final. It does not matter whether it was you or your spouse who initiated the separation or divorce action. In either scenario, things are more likely to remain civil and progress smoothly if you avoid bringing new romantic interests into the picture. You and your soon-to-be-ex spouse might be communicating relatively well and working towards a civil dissolution of your relationship, but that does not mean that all emotions have cooled between the two of you. Nothing puts a halt to friendly negotiations like the introduction of a new lover. And, let's be honest, the new/rebound lover is often selected to satisfy the fantasy of the rebounding spouse and trigger the insecurities of the other spouse. Cabana boy, anyone?

Or, maybe you are looking for a new/replacement relationship and not just a fling. The new paramour all-too-often tries to influence the divorce action and can interfere tremendously when minor children are involved. Sometimes the paramour creates an issue where one did not originally exist between the two spouses. For example, a husband/father might have no problem with paying more than guideline child support to the wife/mother because the money is going to the children's benefit. The father's new girlfriend, however, may have different ideas for that extra money. And sometimes the new paramour – no matter how nice, educated, and classy he or she is – simply provides another argument for the opposing spouse to make to the court against you, particularly when custody and visitation of minor children is an issue. These arguments can get very expensive very fast, both in terms of legal fees and costs and in lengthy delays of the case as it works through the legal system. And nothing fans the flames of your budding relationship like your lover being followed by a private investigator, deposed by your spouse, or grilled on the witness stand in court.

Also, think long and hard about how well you really know this new person before introducing them to your children. It’s one thing to realize that you’re in love with a close friend you’ve known well for twenty years and whom you know to be an intelligent and nice person with no criminal history, drug or alcohol problems. It’s another thing entirely to meet someone online or at a bar and introduce them to your children after a couple of weeks, only to discover later that they have some serious issues or character flaws.

Those in the military, particularly officers, have another reason to wait until the divorce is final before moving on to the next relationship. Committing adultery is punishable under Article 134 of the UCMJ even if the offending party was separated from his or her spouse at the time of the affair. The separation is only one factor to be considered and is not a per se exception to punishment for adultery. An officer could also face charges of conduct unbecoming an officer.

For those who are considering a relationship with someone who is "currently separated" - proceed with extreme caution. Reconciliations do happen from time to time. And do you really know how long your new love interest has been "separated?" Is the other spouse even aware of the separation? You might be surprised.

And above all else, don't broadcast your exploits to the world. Say no to Facebook! ( least until after you're officially divorced... and your kids are adults!)