Infidelity is a complex issue that can have far-reaching implications, both emotionally and legally. When a marriage ends due to infidelity, the ensuing divorce proceedings can become a battleground for hurt feelings and legal disputes. Below aims to explore the multifaceted impact of infidelity on divorce, covering both the legal and emotional aspects that couples must navigate. Understanding these considerations can help you make informed decisions and prepare for the challenges that lie ahead.
Legal Implications of Infidelity
Alimony and Spousal Support
Maryland, as of October 1, 2023, will be only a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning neither spouse has to prove any marital misconduct or wrongdoing like adultery to divorce. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is often a point of contention in divorce cases impacted by adultery. Fault-based factors like infidelity are considered in alimony determinations. Some factors focus solely on financial need and the ability to pay. However, a minority of states still permit judges to factor in infidelity and behavior leading to divorce when awarding alimony. In these states, the adulterous spouse may face some financial consequences. If you are perceived as the main cause of the failed marriage due to your affair, you could get less alimony based on your “guilt”. However, an experienced divorce lawyer can argue to limit the impact of adultery on the alimony outcome. Carefully examine the laws in your state to anticipate how infidelity could sway alimony and spousal support decisions.
When divorcing couples have to divide marital property and assets, most states follow the “equitable distribution” model versus an equal 50-50 split. Maryland abides by equitable distribution, meaning property is divided in a fair manner based on factors like need and contribution, not necessarily equally. Marital misconduct like adultery can potentially be considered under the contribution factor. For example, if one spouse’s infidelity directly led to major financial losses, or they misused marital funds to support an affair, judges may award a greater share of assets to the innocent spouse. However, showing a direct financial impact is crucial for adultery to affect property division. Using marital money for gifts, travel, or living expenses related to the extramarital relationship could be persuasive evidence. Hiding assets or secretly draining accounts due to an affair could also influence property division. Consulting experienced divorce counsel is key to understanding how infidelity fits into equitable distribution arguments in your unique case.
Child Custody and Visitation
In child custody disputes within a divorce, a parent’s adultery often does not directly determine custody arrangements. Rather, the circumstances and impact surrounding the affair are considered. For instance, if the cheating parent exposed children to physical, psychological, or moral harm through their actions, like neglecting childcare duties to carry on an affair, it could weigh against them in custody decisions. If the children were impacted by parental fighting over the infidelity, reducing contact with the adulterous parent may be appropriate. However, if the affair was truly kept separate from parenting duties and caused no direct impact on the minor children, custody may be unaffected. Adultery alone does not definitively dictate custody outcomes. Skilled divorce lawyers can argue how the nuances of a parent’s infidelity should or should not sway custody and visitation based on the children’s best interests.
Practical Steps and Tips
Seek Legal Counsel
If you are going through a divorce and infidelity is involved, the first critical step is to consult with an experienced family law attorney in your state. An attorney who specializes in divorce cases can provide invaluable guidance on how adultery factors into divorce proceedings in your jurisdiction and what legal strategies you should consider adopting. For example, an attorney can advise if proving adultery would impact asset division or alimony awards. A competent divorce lawyer will know the nuances of state laws and court practices regarding infidelity. With proper legal counsel, you can make informed decisions on how to navigate the complex divorce process. Do your research to find a reputable law firm and set up a consultation. Going into a divorce with legal expertise on your side will make a big difference, especially when sensitive issues like adultery are present.
Divorces involving infidelity often have complex financial implications that require expert planning. Meeting with a financial advisor who specializes in divorce finances can help you gain clarity. They can analyze your assets, account for debts and projected expenses, and estimate post-divorce incomes to devise a viable financial plan. This planning is crucial because divorces are financially draining; adding the costs of infidelity such as legal fees, therapy, and more makes comprehensive planning a must. A financial planner can also advise you on dividing assets equitably, budgeting during the divorce, planning for single-income living, and adjusting investment and retirement accounts. If alimony is on the table, a financial expert can calculate justified amounts based on lifestyle needs. Further, they can help you avoid financial pitfalls like hiding assets or improper documentation. With professional financial guidance tailored to your divorce situation, you can make sound choices to preserve wealth and achieve financial stability.
Infidelity complicates the already intricate process of divorce as it can affect the ultimate legal determination or resolution. By understanding these implications, you can better prepare for the legal battles that lie ahead.