My Spouse Cheated on Me. Does that Affect My Divorce?

Money issues, general incompatibility, and infidelity. Those are three of the most common reasons for divorce. The latter might hurt people’s emotions the most, as finding out that your spouse has cheated on you could come out of the blue. Other times, non-adulterous spouses receive clues over a long period of time, resulting in a growing suspicion. 

Regardless of how you found out your spouse was unfaithful, we understand your hurt, frustration, and anger. You, along with many other spouses, might be wondering whether or not your spouse’s infidelity will affect the divorce proceedings. The short answer is probably not, though it might come into play if a court has to decide matters of alimony or child custody. 

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce

Alabama, like the 49 other states in the U.S., offers spouses who are filing for divorce to initiate a no-fault divorce. This means that neither spouse needs to be “at fault” in order for the divorce to happen. However, Alabama does allow spouses to allege fault-based grounds for divorce. Adultery is one of these grounds. It’s more complicated and slightly more difficult to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery, as the spouse who filed must show sufficient proof that the other spouse cheated. Because of this burden of proof, many spouses who were actually cheated on choose instead to file divorce due to irreconcilable differences (no-fault). 

Impact on Property Distribution and Alimony

Let’s say one spouse starts an affair with an acquaintance and carries it on for a year. During that time span, the cheating spouse takes his mistress on cruises and buys her lavish gifts. When the non-adulterous spouse finds out and files for divorce, the courts will look at the amount of money the adulterous spouse spent on the affair. Because the adulterous spouse dissipated marital assets, the judge will likely reduce his share of the marital property (he already spent some of it!). 

In matters of alimony, the courts are required to consider many factors when deciding on the appropriate amount and type of alimony. There is some leeway for judges to consider infidelity when awarding alimony; appeals courts in the state have upheld the right for judges to do this. 

Impact on Child Custody Arrangements

Adultery has less of a chance of affecting child custody than it does property division or alimony. When courts are charged with deciding custody arrangements, they must focus on the “best interests of the child” legal standard. In other words, whatever’s best for the child is what will be decided, and there is an understanding that children benefit from having both parents in their lives. So, unless the presence of the adulterous spouse’s new partner would harm the child in any way, it’s unlikely that adultery would have a measurable impact on child custody. 

Conclusion

As much as it hurts that your spouse was unfaithful, it’s not likely that the infidelity will matter all that much in your divorce. If you were cheated on and want to go full scorched-earth during the divorce process, there’s a possibility you can move the needle in regards to property division and alimony—if you are able to prove your spouse was unfaithful, which is far from guaranteed. 

However, every divorce is unique, which is why our firm works tirelessly to get to know each client’s situation and goals. Once we’re on the same page, we will aggressively represent you during the process. Ready to get started? We’re waiting for your call.

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