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Dating and living in sin during divorce

Is it OK to go on a date during a divorce?

Actually dating during a divorce can both railroad a previously amicable divorce and has a number of legal implications.

Sarah Jane Lenihan, Senior Solicitor at our London office joins us on the blog to walk us through some of the key implications.

“I am often asked by clients about dating during a divorce and the potential impact on their case. Whilst I am certainly not qualified to give dating tips, I have seen first-hand the impact that new relationships can have on the divorce process, sometimes railroading what was once a smooth and amicable path.  There are also a number of legal implications you must consider and it is these that I focus on below.

New ground for divorce

It is commonly known that adultery is one of the five reasons you can use to prove your marriage has broken down irretrievably in English law. What is less known is that starting a new relationship before a divorce is finalised can have financial implications particularly if you ‘live in sin.’

Adultery in a divorce and I quote from the case of Dennis v Dennis in 1995, is ‘a voluntary act of sexual intercourse between the husband or wife and a third party of the opposite sex’.  (The last two words may surprise you that today the definition still requires the sexual intercourse to take place between two people of the opposite sex – but that’s a blog post within itself.)

So, if you are in a new relationship and your divorce is not finalised, your ex-spouse could present a divorce based on your adultery and the person you are having an ‘adulterous’ relationship with maybe named in your divorce documentation.  Even if nothing happened until you separated. In the eyes of the law, you are still married and this can have financial implications and incur costs.

An important thing to dispel here is the myth that if someone has committed adultery you will get more in the financial settlement. This is not the case – there is no financial compensation for adulterous behaviour and the saying ‘I’ll take every penny’ is simply not possible.

The potential impact of ‘living in sin’

If you cohabit with a new partner, whether or not adultery is taking place, there will be a requirement for your partner’s financial situation to be disclosed whilst you either attempt to resolve via solicitors, mediation or the court.  You may believe this is unfair or irrelevant but in fact, it can be an important factor in taking into account your ability to rehouse and meet outgoings if for example there are two salaries coming into the household.

If you, therefore, move into your new partner’s home following separation and they pay for all of your outgoings you may be penalised; especially if there is not enough to go around and your ex-husband or wife is on their own.  You also need to think about what happens if you separate from your new partner after the financial settlement has been agreed.  If your finances have been resolved by a court order whether this is an agreement or Order of the Court it is unlikely there is much you can do.

Even if you are still living under a separate roof from your new partner, if you share each other households this could be classed as living together and again affect how the court views your financial needs for the future.

Your new rights

In your new relationship, you should be aware that you do not have the same rights as a married couple and the law is very different.  Cohabitants are not entitled to any of their partner’s income/pension/savings or property unless you have made a financial contribution to the capital value of the property.  If you have had a child/ren together you may be in a position to seek financial provision on their behalf.

You may, therefore, wish to consider entering into a Cohabitation Agreement before you do take this next step to make sure there is a mutual understanding from you both as to the ownership of the property you choose to cohabit in and how you will manage the bills and what the intention is in the event of a separation.”

You can read more about cohabitation and the myths that surround it here. 

Do any of these issues affect you?

If you are dating during a divorce and considering moving into together please do speak to your solicitor. The best advice is to get early advice before it’s too late.

Get in touch

If you would like any advice on dating during divorce or other family law issues please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here.

* Just to let you know I see absolutely nothing sinful about cohabitation. Thanks for reading my blog.

This article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.

Sarah advises on all areas of family law (divorce/dissolution, cohabitation, domestic violence, children) and has worked with a broad spectrum of clients both nationally and internationally.

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  1. David Mixell says:

    Good afternoon,

    I’ve been separated from my wife for 11 months (she left me)and have met someone else. I have 2 children and I believe the time is right that they should meet (girlfriend and children). We are still working through the divorce, and everything is very amicable. Will there be any financial impact to myself if I say to my ex wife that I have met someone else?

    • Kate Nestor says:

      Thanks for your comment. Your details have been passed to our client care who will get you in touch with one of our lawyers. Kind regards,

  2. Emily thomas says:

    My husband left me in June 2019
    And has literally made my life hell sicnr he walked away
    Financial threats

    I have a solicitor
    Iv been to police
    And I’m under counselling and on medication

    My main issue is he introduced a new woman as ‘friend’ to our just turned 7 and 4 year old in early October. This has a massive negative impact on the children as they didn’t understand our relationship/family was forever splitting.
    I didn’t no officially he had moved on and he never even told me he was introduced oh this woman. And when my oldest ask him out right who she was as she saw them kissing and he lied.

    Surly this all has a negative impact on the girl mental well being and processing separation and relationship in general

    The school are on board and have noticed a difference in their behaviour since the introduction.

    I know there isn’t a law in land to support me in who my children spend time with when they are with their dad.

    However he’s threatening to take me to court for 100% over the children my argument is he isn’t protecting or looking after the girls best interest.

    He’s hell bend on introducing her gain in Dec. I have requested (my only requests) after CNS sn he’s refused. As they are mining in together In new year…

    Do I stand a change in court agains a man that’s hell bend on ruining every aspect of my life even when he walked away….


    • Kate Nestor says:

      I have passed your details to our Client Care Team who will be able to put you in touch with a lawyer who can help. Regards,

  3. keith kerr says:

    My wife is co-habiting with her ex-husband while still married to me. Is this an offence?

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