Does Adultery Affect a Divorce Case?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on April 16, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A spouse's adultery, once discovered, can lead to arguments, resentment, and even divorce. But do courts look less favorably upon an adulterer in a divorce case?

Generally, no -- thanks to the concept of "no-fault" divorce, now available in all 50 states. In a "no-fault" divorce, either spouse can seek a divorce for any reason, and it doesn't matter who's at fault.

But some states still allow the option to pursue a "fault" divorce, in which adultery may play a role. Here's how adultery can factor in to a "fault" divorce case:

Adultery May Lead to a Quicker Divorce

In states that allow for both "fault" and "no-fault" divorces, "fault" cases may actually get finalized quicker. That's because many states require waiting periods for "no-fault" divorces, ranging from 20 days to 18 months.

By contrast, there's generally no waiting period for a "fault" divorce due to adultery. But the adultery must first be proven in court, which could take time if you're involved in a contentious divorce.

Adultery May Lead to a More Expensive Divorce

Proving adultery in a "fault" divorce not only takes time, but also money to investigate and collect evidence. Presenting a case in court may also lead you to hire an attorney or even expert witnesses, which can rack up your costs.

The accused adulterer spouse will also get a chance to refute evidence of adultery, and is entitled to file various motions that may drag out your case and lead to mounting legal bills.

Adultery May Lead to a Bigger Award for the Non-Philandering Spouse

Once adultery is proven in a "fault" divorce, however, the non-cheating spouse could win big: A judge may award more marital property to the non-cheater, or order a larger amount of spousal support.

It's a potentially big payoff, but it comes with risks. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to guide you through the process, and advise whether adultery should be a factor in your divorce.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard