December 8, 2021

Cheating, With or Without Sex, May Matter in Divorce

In virtually all cases, divorces are granted because the judge finds that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. For that purpose, fault is pretty much irrelevant.  But, if the judge deems it appropriate, the spouse whose behavior caused the divorce might get less favorable alimony orders or a smaller share of the assets.

Not surprisingly then, one spouse might spend a lot of time, money and effort to prove the other spouse committed adultery by having had sexual relations with someone else.  Similarly, the spouse accused of adultery frequently argues that there was no sex – “we’re just friends”. The innocent spouse is often frustrated when, as is frequently the case, the judge doesn’t place much weight on the other spouse’s conduct.  In some cases, even if adultery is proved or admitted, the judge might conclude that it wasn’t the cause of the divorce.  Because, for example, a spouse knew of the other’s multiple affairs but stayed in the marriage anyway.

What may be surprising to most people though, is that the existence of one spouse’s romantic relationship, even where there is no sexual component, may matter when a judge enters financial orders. That was the outcome in one case in which the evidence showed a very personal and flirtatious relationship between the husband and his business partner. They spent many evenings together over a period of years.  Their Facebook communications included exchanging romantic GIFs and messages and at one point they agreed that Facebook was too public and that they needed to “fly under the radar”.  While the judge seemed to believe there had been no sex, he concluded the husband carrying on the relationship was the cause of the divorce.  The result, based in part on the relationship: a 65%-35% division of the marital home proceeds in the wife’s favor.

Recognizing if and when an extramarital relationship, sexual or not, caused the divorce and matters enough to affect the financial orders one way or the other isn’t a simple task.  Working with an experienced lawyer to make the necessary analysis and, if appropriate, develop an effective strategy is likely a good investment. 

 This article was first published in the December 2, 2021 edition of The Cheshire Citizen.

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