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How Will My Spouse’s Infidelity Affect My Divorce?

Posted on in Divorce Issues

Adultery and divorce issues child custody alimonyFew things are more hurtful than realizing that your marriage is coming to an end because your spouse has cheated on you. In these cases, you’re likely to feel a great deal of sadness and betrayal, as well as anger about how your impending divorce will affect your children and anxiety about the changes you’ll be experiencing in your life. All of these feelings can seem overwhelming, and you might want to lash out at your spouse for bringing this turmoil into your family’s lives. However, as you proceed with the divorce process, you’ll want to take a step back, consider things from a legal perspective, and understand how infidelity will affect the decisions made.

Addressing Adultery When Filing for Divorce

Depending on the laws in your state, you may or may not need to address infidelity when filing a petition for divorce. Some states recognize fault-based grounds for divorce, allowing a person to state that their marriage has ended because of adultery or other actions taken by their partner. However, most states allow for “no-fault divorce” in which a person simply needs to state that the marriage has failed due to “irreconcilable differences,” and in some states, this is the only option available. While you may feel that you should make it understood that your spouse’s infidelity is the reason your marriage has ended, blaming her for your divorce could make the process more contentious, leading to disputes that take a great deal of time and money to resolve.

Infidelity and Financial Issues

If you believe that your spouse is to blame for the end of your marriage, you may feel that she should be penalized or that matters related to finances should be decided in your favor. However, most state laws do not take adultery or other forms of marital misconduct into account when addressing matters such as the division of marital property. In most cases, assets and debts that you and your spouse acquired during your marriage will be divided in a way that is fair and equitable. However, if your spouse dissipated or wasted marital assets when committing adultery, such as by spending money to buy gifts for her lover, this could affect the decisions made about how property will be divided.

Similarly, decisions about spousal support (alimony) usually do not take infidelity into account. This type of support is meant to allow spouses to maintain their standard of living, and it is typically based on the income earned by both spouses rather than any actions taken during the marriage. However, some state laws may consider infidelity when determining whether to award alimony, or a prenuptial agreement might state that alimony will not be awarded if either spouse commits adultery.

Adultery and Child Custody

Decisions about how to divide parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation) are based on what is in children’s best interests. In many cases, a parent’s infidelity won’t play a role in these decisions, since their behavior during the marriage won’t affect their ability to care for their children. However, there may be some cases when adultery plays a role in these matters. For instance, if you can show that your spouse has neglected her parental duties while pursuing an affair, you may ask that you be awarded primary or sole custody of your children. You might also want to ask for restrictions on your ex’s parenting time because of concerns about your children’s safety, such as if she is living with a new partner who has a history of domestic abuse.

If your marriage is ending because of infidelity, you’re probably feeling a great deal of emotional anguish, and you may be preparing for a difficult divorce. As you go about the process of ending your marriage, you’ll want to understand the legal issues surrounding your spouse’s actions and determine how you can protect your children’s best interests. By working with an experienced divorce attorney, you can understand the best steps to take to achieve positive results in your case.

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