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Infidelity on the part of one – or both – partners in a marriage is an incredibly common reason for divorce. By some estimates, 40 to 50 percent of marriages where there has been infidelity end in divorce.
In the past, having a cheating spouse was often grounds for gaining the upper hand in the divorce. It meant you had a better chance to get what you asked for in the divorce, such as a larger portion of marital assets or sole custody of your children.
Adultery even could be considered grounds for criminal charges and civil lawsuits.
However, that isn’t the case in divorce cases today, which means that finding out your spouse has been cheating isn’t likely to make a huge impact in most divorces.
Here’s how cheating – either as the one who was cheated on or the person who cheated – can impact your divorce:
Adultery Isn’t Grounds
Divorce cases used to require fault in order for them to proceed, such as proving infidelity or domestic abuse. Now, you can file for divorce without having to prove fault by either party, making it easier for individuals to seek a divorce.
This means that the simple fact that you or your spouse cheated isn’t likely to make a big difference in whether or not you get divorced, or the terms of your divorce.
Harm to Children
Just because you or your spouse had an affair doesn’t mean they’re incapable of caring for your children.
However, if you can prove that your spouse’s infidelity directly caused harm to your children – and that their continued exposure will continue to cause harm – you may be able to swing a custody arrangement in your favor.
This doesn’t mean that you show that your spouse’s affair and your subsequent divorce will harm the children; instead, you need to be able to prove that the affair had directly harmed your children. An example of this is if your spouse went to meet up with their extramarital partner in a hotel or other location and took your children with them.
In this situation, you can show that your children were directly exposed to your spouse’s affair and, as such, it caused them harm. Being able to prove this direct harm can give you grounds to receive the upper hand in child custody arrangements.
Dissipation (of assets)
In most divorces, property and assets are divided evenly or according to a specific legal formula.
For cases where infidelity was a factor, however, the cheating spouse’s use of marital funds or assets to pay for their extramarital relationship can be considered dissipation. Proving dissipation may entitle you to a larger portion of the asset split to make up for the money your spouse spent on their affair.
In most cases, the amount of money spent on the affair isn’t really enough to make a difference in the split. However, if you suspect your spouse used large sums of money, or took out large amounts of debt in order to help pay for their relationship, you may be able to recoup these funds in the divorce proceedings.
Divorce Attorney in Washington, D.C.
While cheating may not greatly impact the majority of divorces involving infidelity, all avenues are worth pursuing. With the help of an experienced, compassionate divorce attorney, you can better understand your rights in your divorce case and move forward better prepared.