My Wife Slept With Someone Else While Separated, Is That OK?

Not every marriage is made to last. Some couples know their union is a mistake before they even walk down the altar. Others realize later as the romance slowly fizzles out.

Whether your marriage ended with a bang or reached a reasonable conclusion, there’s no question that divorce is a long and painful road. And what makes it even harder? Infidelity.

Some partners believe that during a separation period, “anything goes.” They sleep around, call up an ex, or pursue a new relationship.

But many times, their spouse doesn’t see it the same way. Until the ink dries on the divorce papers, they consider dating of any kind a betrayal. So who is right? Is it OK if your wife slept with someone else while separated? Or was she a free agent?

Things to know

  • If your wife slept with someone else while separated, it is not OK. She committed adultery in the eyes of the law.
  • Adultery during separation can have serious consequences on your divorce proceedings, financial settlement, and even child custody arrangements.
  • Sleeping with someone else while separated also causes severe emotional pain to the other spouse, which is never OK.

To learn more about adultery during separation and its consequences, read on. We’ve broken down all you need to know:


Is It Adultery If You're Separated?

Yes, it is legally considered adultery to have sexual relations with someone other than your spouse, even while separated.

The circumstances around a romantic relationship do not matter in the eyes of the law. Even if you and your wife believe that you should be free to date while separated, the courts disagree.

You can argue that it was a mistake. Or that it was just one time. You can say that your married sex life was already dead.

None of it changes the letter of the law: you cannot get an official divorce until you and your spouse have been separated for at least one year. Until then? Sorry: you’re expected to stay faithful.

But emotions aren’t so straightforward. It’s not always realistic to put your love life on hold until a divorce is finalized. So what happens if you or your wife commit adultery while separated?


The consequences of adultery depend on the local law. But they can be financially devastating for a divorce settlement. In extreme cases, it could impact alimony, division of assets, or even child custody. In North Carolina, adultery is even considered a criminal offense.

Take a deep breath: don’t stress about going to prison if you’re thinking, "I slept with someone while separated." And neither is your wife. It’s extremely rare for a prosecutor to bring those charges to a cheating couple.

But the guilty party should be a little nervous if they live in a fault-based divorce state. In those jurisdictions, the consequences of adultery during separation are heftier. If you can prove that your wife cheated on you, she might lose out when it comes to dividing your marital property.


My Wife Slept With Someone Else While Separated, Is That OK?

In a no-fault divorce, the implications of sleeping around during separation aren’t as severe. But that doesn’t make it OK: the emotional pain your wife inflicted on you is unacceptable. She broke your trust—and your heart.

Separations don't always lead to divorces, but infidelity during separation can reduce the chances of couples getting back together. If you were hoping to mend the marriage, your wife’s behavior just made it incredibly difficult.

Even if you both still try to mend your relationship, sleeping with other people whilst separated just adds more complications so any tensions or conflicts that need resolving.

Even if she tries to justify her actions, your feelings matter. Separated or together, you are technically her spouse and deserve to be treated with respect. When thinking about how to fight for your marriage when separated, you might want to consider setting ground rules for separation to prevent this problem from arising.


What To Do About Adultery During Separation

If you want to prosecute your wife

If you plan to build a divorce case around it, know your rights. Find out what evidence you need to prove the infidelity took place. In many states, simply dating is not enough to constitute cheating. After all, your wife is allowed to go out to dinner with another man.

But if you have witnesses who can testify that she had a sexual relationship with a new partner while you were separated? Now that’s a different story. Many states require you to prove sexual intercourse took place outside of your marriage.

If you want to prosecute the "other man"

What if you don’t want to go after your wife for sleeping with someone else while separated, but you are angry at the other man?

Some courts actually give you the option to sue the person who broke up your marriage. Six different states in the U.S. have “homewrecker laws” that can award you financial damages from the guy your wife slept with while you were separated.

It’s a dated law, but as long as it’s on the books, you can still take advantage of it.

Beware that if you go after the person your wife slept with, it may harm her indirectly. If she planned to settle down with this person, and you've just sued him significantly, she will feel the financial implications.

If you don't want to prosecute anyone

But what if you don’t want to sue anyone? You might not want to get divorced at all. Your wife left a painful hole in your heart when she slept with someone else. But that doesn’t mean you stopped loving her.

If despite the infidelity, you still want to learn how to fight for your marriage, you still can. It will just be a lot more difficult after your wife has slept with someone else. You'll need to see her genuine regret, and you'll both need to put in the emotional work to pull through.


Can A Marriage Survive Infidelity?

Things look bleak. But yes, you can still fix a marriage after infidelity took place during separation. Couples therapy, sincere remorse, and a renewed commitment to each other can reunite a broken relationship.

But the real question is: should you save the marriage?

Only you and your spouse know the answer. But before you start signing up for counseling sessions, make sure you are on the same page.

Are you fully prepared to forgive your wife for her actions during your separation period? Does she want to fix your marriage, or has she emotionally moved on to someone new? Are you still compatible, or would it be better for both of you to begin new lives apart?

Infidelity doesn’t have to mean your marriage is doomed, but don’t be afraid to start over. Decide together if your love is strong enough to overcome adultery during separation.

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