Two questions generally come up after a couple has separated but during the time a divorce is pending:
1) Can I date?
2) Can I buy things?
Question one, dating:
The usual legal answer to both questions is yes, but you’ll want to check with your lawyer to be sure, because there are a lot of exceptions.
In terms of dating, once you’ve separated, the marriage is over, and judges don’t care if you move on with your life. Once you’ve split up and aren’t living together with your spouse, it’s usually not considered adultery to start dating (or have sex with) someone new. Judges don’t want you to be trapped in your marriage until the divorce is final. No one wants your life to stagnate while your await your final hearing date.
Be careful about at least two things though: don’t have someone spend the night with you when the children are also spending the night or if the children know that someone is spending the night. This could affect your custody case, since someone can say your moral character isn’t what it should be. Keep that kind of thing secret from the kids. It’s something they just don’t need to know about. Also, don’t move in with a new boyfriend or girlfriend if alimony is a possibility or you could destroy your alimony case. Living with friends is okay. Living with people you are dating could cause your alimony to be reduced or eliminated.
Question two, financials:
Financially, you are generally free to do as you please after you separate, especially if the divorce has been filed and is pending, but there are a couple of things to consider here as well:
a) Don’t sell or get rid of anything that could be considered "marital property" (things you acquired during the marriage or things that are in both spouses’ names), like a car, jewelry, a 401(k), etc. You need a judge’s permission to sell or encumber (take a loan out on) marital property.
b) Even if you do acquire property after you file for divorce and during the separation, the judge may still declare the property to be "marital," and force you to give half or some other portion of it to your spouse. The law says that a judge can consider property to be "marital" (and therefore divide it up) if it was acquired 1) before the separation date, 2) before the date the divorce was filed, 3) before the trial date, or 4) before any date the judge darn well pleases. [Editor’s Note: Under Georgia law, property acquired right up to the date of the final hearing in the divorce case is Marital]
These last two dates should worry you. In other words, if you buy a new car or add money to your IRA, even a year or two after you’ve moved out and filed for divorce, you still might have to sell it and give your spouse half.
Don’t be too worried, though. Most judges agree that the date of separation or the date the divorce was filed is the date on which you can safely buy new stuff and claim it as completely "nonmarital." I can’t even remember the last time I saw a judge rule any differently. But, as I said, check with your lawyer first. That’s what we’re here for.