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.