It's not uncommon for divorcing spouses to race into new relationships, even while a divorce is pending. A new partner might offer security and support, but anyone considering moving in with someone while their divorce is pending should carefully weigh the pros and cons of the arrangement. This includes evaluating how it could affect alimony, property division, child custody, and even the cost of and speed of your divorce.
There's no law preventing anyone from living with someone who's not their spouse during a divorce. However, depending on where you live, and depending on the nature of your relationship with the other person, you might be committing a crime—adultery is illegal in a number of states, such as Florida, New York, and Oklahoma. In most states where it's illegal, adultery is a misdemeanor.
Simply dating during divorce likely isn't enough to get you in criminal trouble for adultery, nor is living with a friend (or even someone you're romantically interested in). Most laws that criminalize adultery require the relationship to be more than an occasional encounter—the couple must be living together openly and romantically for the relationship to constitute illegal adultery. So, under these laws, it's possible that moving in with your significant other while your divorce is pending could qualify as criminal adultery. For example, in Florida, anyone who "lives in an open state of adultery" is guilty of a second degree misdemeanor. (Fla. Stat. § 798.01 (2022).)
Even though you might technically be committing a crime by moving in with someone during your divorce, adultery as a crime is hardly ever prosecuted. So, regardless of whether your state considers adultery a crime, it's important to consider not only whether you can move in with someone during your divorce, but also whether you should.
If you're considering moving in with someone while you're separated from your spouse or while a divorce is pending, consider the following ways this decision might affect your divorce.
Alimony—also called spousal support—is the money paid by one ex-spouse to the other for support under the terms of a court order or settlement agreement following a divorce. Each state has its own laws about how and when courts should order alimony.
In some states, judges are allowed to consider the fault of the spouses when determining whether alimony is appropriate. In these states, moving in with someone before your divorce is final could be considered marital fault, and provide the court with grounds to deny alimony.
In other states, although the court can consider marital misconduct when awarding alimony, it can't consider marital misconduct that happens after the separation date. For example, Pennsylvania courts can't consider any adultery that happens after the date of final separation. (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701(b)(14) (2022).) In these states, and in states where marital fault isn't considered when awarding alimony, moving in with a significant other before your divorce is final shouldn't affect any alimony award.
The laws that apply to permanent alimony typically apply to temporary alimony awards, too, so moving in with a romantic partner before your divorce is final could also ruin your chances of getting temporary alimony.
Moving in with someone while your divorce is pending might affect decisions relating to other issues in your divorce beyond alimony, such as:
Although the rules vary from state to state, generally, alimony is based on the recipient spouse's financial need and the other spouse's ability to pay. In some states, judges can award a higher amount of alimony because of a spouse's marital misdeeds (such as desertion, cruelty, adultery, or reckless spending). On the other hand, some states' laws specifically prohibit judges from factoring marital fault into a support award.
For example, alimony is awarded in Texas only in rare circumstances, such as when a couple has been married at least 10 years or there has been domestic violence. But in many other states, one spouse's affair can be grounds for obtaining or increasing an alimony award. Even in states that don't allow fault-based divorces, such as Florida, one spouse's adultery can still lead to an increased alimony award for the innocent spouse—especially when the cheating involved the use of marital funds.
The takeaway here is that the risks of living with someone before your divorce is final often outweigh the benefits. But, if you still want to make the move, and given all the possible ways that living with someone could affect the outcome of your divorce, it's a good idea to get a grasp on the laws in your state. A local divorce lawyer can quickly fill you in on how this arrangement might play out in your divorce, and help you weigh the pros and cons specific to your situation.