How does adultery affect divorce?



How does adultery affect divorce?

Clients often ask how affairs during a marriage will affect the outcome of divorce. From a legal approach, the short answer is that affairs have little to no affect outside of certain specific situations. From a practical approach, an affair can bring with it intense emotions. These feelings can inevitably affect the difficulty and length of settlement negotiations.

Unlike some states, Massachusetts is a no-fault divorce jurisdiction. This means that instead of having to prove a marriage is over because of some fault by the other spouse, such as adultery, a spouse can simply state that they believe the marriage is over and cannot be fixed. This no-fault approach saves the parties from spending substantial time and money in proving fault, and makes unnecessary the eventual emotional difficulty and trauma of reliving each spouse’s shortcomings during the marriage.

Beyond the issue of granting a divorce, Massachusetts Courts also divide the financial parts of the marriage through a two-part approach. First, Courts divide the marital debts and assets based on a fairness standard, which usually results in an even 50/50 division. Second, Courts determine future financial support based on the needs and abilities of the parties.

Courts consider adultery in divorce only to the extent it affects the financial issues. This can happen if marital assets were used during the affair or if the affair affects either spouse’s future earning potential. For example, if a spouse spent $50,000 on lavish gifts and outings during an affair, the Court can consider this as an advance on the marital estate and award the other spouse this additional amount instead of a straight 50/50 division. Additionally, if a spouse suffers depression because of an affair and is therefore unable to work full-time, the Court can increase that spouse’s relative financial need and alter the final order for alimony or child support accordingly.

Unfortunately, many spouses in Massachusetts still believe that adultery greatly affects the outcome of divorce. This can turn into a hectic battle as one spouse tries to find evidence to prove the affair while at the same time the other spouse tries to hide or destroy the same information. Speaking with a qualified divorce attorney can help both spouses identify the important issues and focus their efforts on coming to a fair and reasonable agreement.

While this article applies to most situations, every case is unique and your specific facts will affect our advice. Feel free to contact us to discuss your case in more detail and how we can help you going forward.

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