This is a common question divorce lawyers hear when helping clients through a divorce, “When can I start a relationship with someone else?”

Whether you are in the midst of divorce proceedings already, or you are having your first phone call with an attorney after learning of your spouse’s affair, the answer may be surprising.

The simple answer is that you should not have sex with anyone that is not your spouse while you are married. The safest option is always to wait until your divorce is finalized before starting a sexual relationship with anyone else.

Most people don’t know this, but adultery is actually a crime in Virginia. Virginia classifies adultery as a Class 4 misdemeanor crime punishable by a fine of up to $250. Luckily for many people, it is rarely prosecuted anymore.

Of course, not everyone is willing to take the zero-tolerance approach to adultery, so let’s spot a few of the issues.



If you are planning to file, or have already filed, for a fault-based divorce (possibly to avoid any waiting period and/or save on spousal support), then you have the most to lose if you begin a sexual relationship now.

For example, if you just learned about your spouse’s cheating and now you want a divorce. It may seem fair that you can go out and have an affair too. After all, they did it first. Not so fast.  If you start committing adultery too, your spouse could defend against your complaint for divorce on the grounds of adultery based on recrimination.

Recrimination is when both spouses commit marital misconduct like adultery. If the court finds adultery has occurred by both parties, it could mean the divorce is not granted, at least not until the statutory waiting period is up, i.e., you may need to wait until you have lived separately for 6 months or a year before the divorce will be granted.

What about if your spouse has filed for divorce based on your adultery? Should you stop the relationship? Yes, from a legal perspective, you likely should. The more obvious your adultery is, the easier it will be for the opposing party, i.e., your soon-to-be ex-spouse, to prove it in court, which could spell consequences for issues like spousal support or child custody.

We highly recommend you seek advice from an attorney that can help you with your divorce, regardless of your circumstances. It is crucial that you have an experienced lawyer in your corner who will deliver ethical, honorable, and highly skilled representation to you. Our attorneys are skilled in advising clients on matters such as the grounds for divorce (adultery, abandonment, etc.), child custody and visitation, spousal support and child support, and the division of marital property.

To learn more about divorce, visit our Divorce Law page.

To learn how our team can help you, contact WhitbeckBennett by calling 800-516-3964, emailing clientservices@wblaws.com, or visiting us here.

By: Maxwell Hand

By: Maxwell Hand

Maxwell Hand is an Associate Attorney at WhitbeckBennett. Mr. Hand studied Environmental Science at the University of Notre Dame and then attended George Washington University Law School while working full time in compliance management roles in the DC area. After ten years focused primarily on FDA, USDA, CPSC, and EPA compliance, Max transitioned out of the corporate world and into family law in 2021.

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