The demise of many a relationship and marriage comes about, when one person in the relationship finds out that their spouse has been cheating on them and committing adultery. Most people assume, when adultery is the cause of marriage termination, that the faithful spouse holds all the advantages in the divorce settlement. This is not necessarily true. Whether or not adultery even has an impact on the divorce proceedings and decree is different from state to state. Some states place little to no weight on adultery, when considering the outcome of a divorce. Other states show even up to heavy favoritism towards the faithful spouse, when determining the separation of assets and custody in a divorce.
Adultery: Facts and Statistics
Nowadays, adultery is not the marriage-ender it historically was. More couples are “trying to work it out.” Historically, men have been granted much more of a pass to commit adultery than women. When women committed adultery, it was usually punished more seriously. Even today in some countries, like Saudi Arabia and Iran, women who commit adultery can be put to death. In the U.S., a handful of states still legally consider adultery a crime, but the law is rarely, if ever, prosecuted.
Adultery and Assets
In most cases of divorce, where adultery has been committed by one of the persons in the relationship, adultery almost never plays a role in determining the separation of assets. Only when the cheating spouse has used shared assets from the marriage to finance the extra-marital affair does the adultery affect the distribution of assets. For example: If a cheating husband sold stock that was in the wife’s name to support his mistress, then the court would likely take this into account, when distributing assets.
Adultery and the Custody of Children
As long as the cheating spouse has not carried on the extra-marital affair in front of the children, adultery also does not play a role in determining, which parent is given custodial rights to the children. However, in some states, when it is known in the divorce that one spouse committed adultery, this can affect the faithful spouse’s obligation to pay alimony to the unfaithful spouse, even if the unfaithful spouse can show a real financial need for the alimony. Also, in many states, the obligation to pay alimony is immediately rescinded, when the spouse receiving the alimony begins residing with another partner or person.
Adultery Affects the Divorce Settlement the Most
Adultery does not really affect the distribution of assets or the custody of children in a divorce case. Adultery does have an impact, however, in the settlement negotiations during a divorce. The great majority of divorce cases will settle (more than 85%), before going to trial. The emotional turmoil of divorce can cause people to behave erratically anyway. With the discovery of adultery, the emotions on both sides of the negotiation table are a ticking time bomb of chaotic distress. The faithful spouse is typically (and understandably) deeply hurt, angry, and seeking retribution. The unfaithful spouse is usually left feeling more guilty and angry at his or herself.
In most states, adultery does not play a role in the distribution of assets. Adultery also does not play a role in determining the custody of children. In many situations, adultery is the main contributing factor in leading a couple to divorce. Adultery is also a main influence in the emotional state of each spouse, when they come to the divorce settlement negotiations.
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