Women report from the online dating scene that they are finding profiles of men who list their marital status as “legally separated.” What does that mean? Short answer: in Maryland, it means legally married.
Some states recognize “legally separated” as a status between married and divorced. In Maryland, the term doesn’t mean much. In this state, anyone who wants a court-recognized separation may file for a limited divorce, which is essentially a legal action designed for couples who do not yet have grounds for an absolute divorce, need financial relief and have not been able to work out their differences privately.
Important point: The man (or woman) on the dating site is still legally married, although living apart from his or her spouse. The couple has given up the right to have sexual relations with each other. But neither has the legal right to remarry until they receive a final divorce, and if either has sexual relations with another person, that is adultery.
So, is it all right to go ahead and date Mr. Legally Separated? The answer may depend on how platonic the relationship will be.
If you and he have voluntary sexual intercourse, that is a fault ground for divorce, and his wife may choose to use it. The definition of adultery in state law requires some intercourse between a male and female, which leaves the question open whether a spouse could sue for divorce if one of the separated partners engaged in intercourse with a same-sex partner.
Adultery with an opposite-sex partner means husband and wife will not have to wait to obtain a divorce. If Mr. Legally Separated’s wife pleads and proves adultery, divorce can be granted immediately. His adultery may be a factor in determining whether his wife has the right to alimony and in awarding custody of the children, if the judge determines that his adulterous behavior had a detrimental effect on them.
To prove that her separated husband is committing adultery, his wife must show that he had the disposition and opportunity for extramarital intercourse. Disposition may be shown through evidence that the two of you have been going out, appearing in public together. Opportunity is generally evidence that the two of you spent the night together.