Will the courts award you more property because your ex cheated?

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

When one spouse cheats, the whole family suffers. You will have to endure months of stress during a divorce and likely several years of financial recovery before your life returns to normal, all because of bad decisions that you didn’t make.

An affair can be a devastating blow to your self-esteem and to your ability to trust others. Unfortunately, many people who cheat and destroy their own marriages often walk away without very many consequences. Can you push the New Jersey courts to punish your ex in the property settlement of your upcoming divorce because they cheated on you?

Do you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement?

The first question you need to ask yourself when seeking justice after your spouse cheats is whether or not you have a marital agreement. If you do, that could affect what happens in your divorce.

Some couples might create a postnuptial agreement when one cheats integrate consequences for repeat infidelity. Other couples have rules in place from before their marriage. If your prenuptial or postnuptial agreement includes some kind of financial penalty for infidelity, you may have a strong case for financially penalizing your ex in the divorce.

Will the New Jersey courts assign a financial penalty?

If you don’t have a prenuptial agreement, you might want the courts to change the way that they split your property up in the divorce proceedings because of the infidelity. Sadly, the New Jersey courts do not consider marital misconduct when splitting up your property.

No matter how egregious and humiliating your spouse’s behavior during the marriage was, the New Jersey courts will not typically financially penalize them for their cheating behavior in the property settlement of your divorce or when ordering alimony.

Did your spouse spend marital assets on their affair?

There is one exception to the general rule that adultery has minimal impact on the outcome of your divorce. Specifically, if you can show that your spouse used substantial marital assets to conduct their affair, that might affect how the courts divide your property.

Wasteful spending on an extramarital affair could be marital dissipation. Wasting marital funds for something that undermines the sanctity of your relationship might mean that your spouse has the sole financial responsibility for the money they spent or the debts they incurred during their affair.

Looking over your household financial records can give you an idea of whether you have the documentation necessary to make a dissipation claim. If not, you may want to focus on your future instead of on the past when planning for your divorce. After all, as the saying goes, the best revenge is living well.


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