Legal separation can mean different things in different states, so it should come as no surprise that the laws regarding dating after legal separation are also somewhat inconsistent.To further complicate matters, the Uniform Code of Military Justice has its own laws regarding adultery among members of the United States military.Dating might be adultery before a divorce is final -- but it might not be.The significance of committing adultery also varies from state to state.Some states consider a couple legally separated when they have signed a separation or marital settlement agreement and relocated to separate homes.A separation agreement is a binding contract, but the contract is between the spouses and doesn't involve the court until they’re divorced and it becomes part of a decree. In other states, legal separation is a process similar to divorce.
However, spouses are still legally married when they separate by this method. Adultery requires that sexual contact exists between a married individual and someone other than his spouse.If a married but separated man takes a woman out for dinner, but drops her off at the end of the evening and goes his own way, it’s generally not adultery. If he dates that woman repeatedly and they begin spending time together in each other’s homes, this can open the door for his spouse to claim the affair is adulterous because sexual contact might be taking place.In some states, adultery is a crime, although it is rarely prosecuted.In states that still recognize fault-based divorces, adultery has more of an impact.If a man begins dating during a legal separation in one of these states, and if his wife can prove that the relationship is sexual in nature, she can usually file for divorce on grounds of adultery.This can affect issues of property distribution and alimony.However, some states, such as North Carolina, make a legal distinction between dating during separation and dating while living together as man and wife.In North Carolina, unless one spouse is clinically insane, couples can only file for divorce after a one-year separation period.If a spouse commits adultery prior to the beginning of the separation, it affects issues of alimony.If the adultery occurs after the date of separation, it does not.Under the terms of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, adultery is a criminal offense.