If infidelity has ended your marriage, you’re not alone. According to a 2014, American Psychological Association study, 20-40% of divorces are caused by cheating. But before you decide to split up, you need to understand how adultery does – and doesn’t – impact divorce.
Adultery and Divorce: A Q & A
Hoping the judge will mete out justice and give you a favorable financial settlement? Here are answers to some common questions:
Q: Will I get more spousal support?
A: The short answer: maybe. If you can prove your spouse spent joint assets while cheating – for instance gifts for affair partners – the court may order these monies be repaid. One form of this repayment could be in the form of a higher alimony payment or greater share of asset division.
Q: Will I get more child support?
A: Generally, no. Infidelity does not give any special rights for increased child support. If your spouse has a child with their cheating partner, they are obligated to financially support all their children.
Q: Will I get more custody time?
A: Generally, no. Infidelity won’t impact child custody and parenting time unless the affair caused the spouse to engage in unsafe behaviors around the child (e.g., leaving the child alone to be with the paramour). If substance abuse has contributed to the infidelity, the court may also factor this into custody, and your spouse may lose parenting time until they complete rehab and/or prove sobriety through monitored visitation. But you will not be awarded more custody simply because your spouse cheated.
Q: My spouse gave me an STD. Can I sue?
A: Yes. You can sue, and seek financial compensation, on the basis of a “marital tort,” meaning a wrongdoing by a spouse. Be prepared that you will need to prove your spouse gave you the STD, including herpes and HPV, which may require testimony from a doctor.
Q: My spouse cheated. Does that mean I need to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery?
A: New Jersey is a fault or no-fault state. In no-fault divorce, you and your spouse must be physically separated for 18 months or have had irreconcilable differences for a year. Fault divorce requires grounds of misconduct by a spouse — one of these being adultery. Be aware that fault divorces are inevitably more acrimonious, more expensive, and more psychologically draining. The burden of proof rests on you, and may mitigate any financial compensation awarded to you. If your spouse cheated, you are still able to file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
A final note: the betrayal of infidelity stings. It’s normal to feel angry and even want revenge against the person who hurt you. Remember, though, that seeking retribution will not change the past. Instead, it’s likely to keep you feeling victimized and siphon off emotional energy that would better be used to rebuild your life, and focus on your children. Do your best to stay focused on healthy priorities.
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