Don’t Sleep with Your Soon-to-Be Ex – And Other Tips for Separation in Georgia
More often than you might expect, lawyers for opposite parties in a divorce will have a conversation that starts something like this: “Can you guess what our clients did last night?”
It’s not the end of the world, but it can complicate and delay divorce proceedings. If the spouses’ intimacy reflects their interest in reconciling, their divorce case will have to be dismissed. And if the recoupling fails, the legal process will have to start over, adding to each side’s psychological and legal costs.
If the couple has sex for any reason other than reconciliation, the case may proceed, but it’s not hard to imagine how one spouse anticipated getting back together while the other didn’t. This is one reason lawyers advise their clients not to have sex with their spouses while a divorce is pending.
Here are some other tips for navigating this separation period.
What Separation Means
It’s important to know that in Georgia, the term “separated” has no legal significance in divorce cases. But in general, it means a couple is not having sex and at least one member is seeking a divorce. People living in the same house can be separated under this definition.
Get Advice Before Making Informal Arrangements
Family therapists frequently urge a physical separation between divorcing parents so that the children do not live in a long period of uncertainty. Most couples sort out informal custody and financial arrangements, but spouses should still seek legal advice during this period. Any separation plans could set the stage for a judge to make them permanent.
Dating During the Separation Period
Of course, after being in a failing relationship, spouses may be itching to meet someone new. However, a new relationship can complicate the end of the old one, and lawyers advise waiting until the divorce is final to start a new relationship.
New relationships are particularly problematic when they started before anyone was discussing divorce because adultery is a bar to alimony in Georgia. This rule is particularly unfair to the spouse who is financially dependent on the other, but unless it is repealed, it makes pre-divorce dating risky.
Don’t Post on Social Media
Fortunately, emails, texts and phone records allow us to prove that a relationship started after separation and therefore didn’t cause a marriage to fail. That said, technology can be detrimental, too. If a spouse does start to date, I’ll urge him or her not to document the activities on social media and to urge any friends or new partners to do the same.
If a spouse publicizes evidence of dating, the other spouse’s counsel may ask a judge to deduct any money spent on the new romance from the dating spouse’s share of the marital assets. Also, any focus on a new relationship can inflame an ex into a more recalcitrant stance during negotiations.
The separation period can be a tough time of transition. It’s important to focus on family – especially any children – as well as friends and career until the divorce is final. This will help move the divorce process along faster so that the spouses can move on with their lives as soon as possible.
Tina Shadix Roddenbery has more than 35 years of experience guiding clients through the process of divorce and other family law challenges, including custody, support modification, legitimation and contempt procedures. Contact BCNTR Law today.