Ending a marriage is never easy, and the separation period can be especially confusing and emotionally taxing. Many people wonder if it’s okay to date while separated, and how it may impact their healing process and pending divorce. Here are six crucial things to consider before entering the dating scene during marital separation.

1. Understand the legal implications

Laws regarding dating during separation vary by location. In some places, dating while separated but still legally married constitutes adultery and could negatively impact divorce proceedings, including alimony and property division.1 Consulting with a family law attorney about the specifics in your area is essential.

Research shows that spouses who separated are less likely to reconcile and infidelity is a common reason to initiate divorce. Dating while separated often is the nail in the cofin.

2. Determine if you’re emotionally ready

Separation is often an emotionally turbulent time. Before jumping into a new relationship, honestly assess if you’ve processed your feelings about your marriage ending. Dating too soon can be a way of avoiding difficult emotions or hoping to quickly fill the void left by the loss of your spouse.2 Also, ask yourself how you feel about your spouse being with someone else. That may help clarify your feelings.

One of you might be “leaning in” and the other “leaning out.” You may need help in sorting out an array of confusing feelings. Emotions run high, and introducing another romantic relationship is usually ill-advised.

Take time to grieve the end of your marriage, and consider individual therapy to help navigate this transition. Studies show that post-separation therapy focused on managing emotions, redefining identity, and developing coping skills can significantly improve divorced individuals’ well-being.3

3. Consider the impact on children

If you have kids, their emotional needs should be a top priority during separation. They are likely struggling with the changes in family structure and may feel hurt, confused, or angry.4 Introducing a new romantic partner too soon can further disrupt their sense of stability.

Research indicates that children whose parents begin dating shortly after separation have more emotional and behavioral problems compared to those whose parents wait longer to date.5It’s generally recommended to wait at least a year after separation to introduce a new partner to your children.6

4. Communicate openly with your spouse

Even if you believe the marriage is over, it’s important to discuss the topic of dating during separation with your spouse. You may not be on the same page about expectations, and dating without agreement could undermine cooperative coparenting and increase hostility in divorce negotiations.

Studies show that effective communication between separated spouses is associated with better post-divorce adjustment for the whole family.7 Aim to have a calm, honest discussion about boundaries and considerations regarding dating while separated.

5. Take a gradual approach to dating

If you feel emotionally prepared to date, take it slow and keep expectations realistic. You’re still legally married and may have unresolved feelings to process. Casual dating can offer companionship and boost self-esteem, but avoid rushing into a serious relationship before your divorce is finalized.

Focus on self-discovery and personal growth during this transitional time. Research shows that individuals who maintain a clear sense of self-identity and engage in meaningful activities after divorce have improved life satisfaction.8

6. Be mindful of financial entanglements

Dating while separated can complicate the financial aspects of divorce, especially if you start cohabitating with a new partner. In some states, moving in with a boyfriend or girlfriend before divorce is final can affect spousal support.9

Keep finances separate from any new romantic partners and avoid large joint purchases or investments until your divorce is settled. Studies indicate that financial disagreements are a common stressor for divorcing couples,10 so it’s best not to further muddy those waters.


Choosing to date during marital separation is a highly personal decision with legal, financial, and emotional ramifications. Consider consulting with a therapist or divorce coach to help clarify your readiness. Prioritize your children’s well-being, and engage in open communication with your spouse. If you do start dating, take it slow and be upfront about your situation. Most importantly, use this time to focus on healthy healing and personal growth as you navigate the challenges of separation and divorce.


  2. Sbarra, D.A., & Emery, R.E. (2005). The emotional sequelae of nonmarital relationship dissolution: Analysis of change and intraindividual variability over time. Personal Relationships, 12, 213-232..
  3. Malgaroli, M., Galatzer-Levy, I. R., & Bonanno, G. A. (2017). Heterogeneity in trajectories of depression in response to divorce is associated with differential risk for mortality. Clinical Psychological Science, 5(5), 843–850.
  4. Weaver, J. M., & Schofield, T. J. (2015). Mediation and moderation of divorce effects on children’s behavior problems. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(1), 39–48.
  5. Anderson, E. R., Greene, S. M., Walker, L., Malerba, C. A., Forgatch, M. S., & DeGarmo, D. S. (2004). Ready to take a chance again: Transitions into dating among divorced parents. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 40(3-4), 61-75.
  6. Langlais, M. R., Anderson, E. R., & Greene, S. M. (2017). Divorced young adult mothers’ experiences of breakups with new partners and repartnering after divorce. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 58(1), 16-32.
  7. Jamison, T. B., Coleman, M., Ganong, L. H., & Feistman, R. E. (2014). Transitioning to postdivorce family life: A grounded theory investigation of resilience in coparenting. Family Relations, 63(3), 411-423.
  8. Kramrei, E., Coit, C., Martin, S., Fogo, W., & Mahoney, A. (2007). Post-divorce adjustment and social relationships: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 46(3-4), 145-166.
  9. Clapp, M. (2000). Divorce and new beginnings. New York: Wiley.
  10. Dew, J., Britt, S., & Huston, S. (2012). Examining the relationship between financial issues and divorce. Family Relations, 61(4), 615-628.