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The potential for negative consequences is not limited to a former spouse’s hurt, embarrassment, or hostility at being publicly humiliated.
Ask nearly any Tennessee divorce attorney whether he or she recommends having a client date or become otherwise romantically involved prior to the conclusion of divorce proceedings. Until the divorce decree is signed by the judge, a party is still married in the eyes of the law and technically not free to date.
In states such as Tennessee that recognize fault in a divorce case, dating during divorce proceedings can be characterized as adultery, which is a ground for divorce.
If it were not, then, in the words of our Court of Appeals, “any spouse is privileged to ‘move out’ of the marital home and cohabit with another without creating a ground for divorce.
Such an interpretation of the statute would largely emasculate its intent and effect.” Furthermore, “[i]t surely takes more than a mere separation of the parties to terminate the obligations incurred when the parties voluntarily entered into the marriage contract.” This has long been the law in our state, as our Court of Appeals opined nearly 60 years ago that the trial court in a divorce action can properly consider matters occurring after the divorce complaint has been filed, as long as such matters have been incorporated therein by amendment or supplemental complaint. Many clients find this perplexing because they feel that once a divorce complaint has been filed, that signals the end of the marital relationship.
It is important for clients to realize that this is actually a misperception that could negatively impact not just their lawsuit but also their personal relationships with their soon-to-be ex-spouse and even their children.