Can You Date While Separated in SC?

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One of the most frequent questions that divorce attorneys receive from clients is whether they can date while separated in SC. Divorcing spouses understand that they must be separated from each other for at least one year before the court will grant the divorce. But during that time, can they date other people? While some individuals answer with a firm “No,” the answer is not necessarily that simple. Under some circumstances, South Carolina does allow married but separated spouses to see other people. The Greenville, SC family law firm of Elliott Frazier examines this issue.

Dating and South Carolina Divorce Proceedings

Being separated may feel like a breath of fresh air, but spouses need to remember that they are still legally married. While South Carolina law does not expressly say that separated spouses cannot date, the best option is to avoid dating during this period. Because the two are still married, dating could be viewed by a judge as adultery.

Dating can therefore affect the outcome of your divorce in various ways. For instance, it can provide the other spouse with potential evidence of marital fault. This, in turn, may impact alimony, the division of marital assets, and even child custody. While you may not have been dating outside the marriage before separation, dating during separation can open the door to such allegations. This can cause unnecessary stress and litigation.

How Does Dating Affect the Various Aspects of a Divorce Case?

Divorce is complicated and must take into account a broad number of factors related to how the parties conducted themselves during marriage. Dating, even while separated, can play into this.

Here are some ways it can affect the issues in your divorce:

Fault versus no-fault divorce

Most marriages end by way of no-fault divorce, which is based on the required one-year separation period. Some spouses, however, choose to allege fault for various strategic reasons, and fault includes adultery. If you are dating, you are technically committing adultery. Dating can therefore transform your no-fault divorce into a more complicated, more contentious fault-based divorce.


Dating during separation, even with a marital settlement agreement in place, could be viewed as adultery or provide circumstantial evidence of an affair that occurred during marriage. A spouse who commits adultery cannot be awarded alimony under South Carolina law. Moreover, in deciding whether and in what amount to award alimony, the court must consider evidence of marital misconduct. That includes adultery.

Property division

Marital property is divided based on principles of equitable distribution, a process that takes several statutory factors into account to arrive at an equitable or fair split of the property. As with alimony, there are various matters a court must take into consideration in deciding how to divide property. One of those is adultery, which led to the breakup of the marriage. Dating other people during your separation may be seen as adultery in its own right or proof of allegations of pre-separation adultery. Either way, it can jeopardize your rights.

Child custody

If you have children and decide to date while your divorce is pending, the person you date may be viewed by the courts as a paramour. This is seen by judges as immoral conduct that negatively impacts the child’s well-being. It should be emphasized that while a written settlement agreement that permits dating may help avoid allegations of adultery, a parent still must be careful who they date and bring around their children.

For instance, a court might decide it is not in the child’s best interests for you to have custody if:

  • You are having overnight visits with the paramour at your residence (with the child in the same household)
  • The paramour uses drugs or alcohol in the presence of your child
  • The paramour is engaged in other illegal activities in the presence of your child
  • Other facts about the paramour and your relationship with him or her are detrimental to the child

When Is It Okay to Date If You Are Getting a Divorce in South Carolina?

Your goal is to avoid negatively impacting your divorce proceedings, especially during your separation. Can you date while separated in SC? While it is best to avoid dating while separated from your spouse, there are options to avoid having dating used against you later:

  • Enter into a written property or marital settlement agreement with your spouse: Such an agreement nearly always contains language that expressly permits a spouse to associate with (date) whomever they want during separation.
  • Have the court enter an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support: This order will settle matters like alimony and property and debt division (equitable distribution) by formally approving your marital settlement agreement.

However, a court can still deny custody if it believes that your dating situation is harming your children. This is where it is critical to make wise decisions. The person you date could impact the judge’s opinion of your parental fitness. Keeping your romantic partner away from your children is a good idea until your divorce is finalized. Consult an experienced Greenville family law attorney for more specific advice.

Can You Date While Separated in SC? Call Us Today for Help With Your Divorce

If you are unsure whether you can date while separated in SC, it’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer before making any decisions. If you are already seeing someone, we can give practical advice for the best steps to take. We can also help you work out a marital settlement agreement or seek a court order that will resolve issues arising out of your divorce and help minimize the chances of marital misconduct becoming an issue.

Elliott Frazier — Family, Personal Injury, & Car Accident Attorneys, LLC is here to manage all aspects of your Greenville, SC separation and divorce. Give us a call today to schedule your initial consultation.

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