By: Marilyn Gale Vilyus
In Texas, a couple is married until the day they get divorced. We do not have “legal separation.” Therefore, even if they have been separated for years, they are still married.
This means that if a person has a new sexual partner, he or she is "under the law" committing adultery! While in our society many factors, including how long the parties have been separated, will affect how this is seen by others, the fact remains that, legally, adultery (even under these circumstances) is a fault ground and basis for a disproportionate property division in a divorce if the person's spouse wishes to make it an issue.
If the couple has children, the aggrieved (“cheated on”) party may well ask for and receive a temporary restraining order from the Court to keep the spouse from allowing his or her new partner to be in the presence of the kids while the case is pending.
Although Harris County divorces usually are over in about six months, other counties may take much longer to finalize the divorce. Divorce cases in other counties can sometimes go on for over a year – maybe even two!
Usually, there will be no restraining order after the divorce unless the new partner has some sort of problem – say drugs, alcohol or a history of physical abuse -– and then there could be a permanent injunction against that person ever being in the presence of the children!
Violation of such an injunction -– or even allowing one’s children to be in the company of such a “bad actor” even if there is not an injunction, can lead to losing custody of the kid(s) to the other parent! If a parent knows his new boyfriend or girlfriend has serious “issues,” he or she may have to choose between their new love interest and their kid(s).
Whether the divorce is final or still pending, clearly, the parent should follow common sense rules about exposing any new “partner” to one’s kids, but especially if the divorce is still pending. Overnights are not generally a good idea. Discretion is key. Failure to be discreet can prompt all kinds of allegations to muddy the divorce case.
It is also important to recognize the need of the kid(s) to adjust to their parents’ divorce and how this is affecting them emotionally. Ideally, some time and space will help to minimize any feelings of blame by the kid(s) towards the new partner.
Only ten percent of relationships which began as an affair lead to marriage. Only ten percent of those marriages last! It’s hard to trust a partner when you know that they cheated on their first spouse with you!!!!!!!
Also, if you and your new spouse deliberately hid income from the first spouse in order to pay less child support, don’t be surprised if this later happens to you!
As attorneys, we aren’t here to make any “judgments." It’s just that it’s our job to protect the interests of the kid(s) involved in our divorce cases. Also, (attorney jokes notwithstanding) we really do care about our clients and don’t want to see them get hurt either! This new dating thing is a tricky business, even under the best of circumstances! We don't want our clients to "jump out of the frying pan and into the fire!" Seriously, if you are married and are already in a new relationship, please just take your time before you make a new, long-term commitment. Also, please do your best to be both discrete and considerate of the feelings of your current spouse and your children. The "legal" ramifications of having an affair are one thing -- but the emotional "fallout" can be equally if not even more devastating!
As attorneys, we hope our clients will do their best to finalize their divorces before moving forward whenever possible.
If they have already started a new relationship, we hope that they will try their best to use good judgement in their decision making process!
Please feel free to call us for a free attorney consultation at 281.550.6650 if you would like to discuss these matters in greater detail.