What effect does your spouse’s affair have on your divorce?

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

Marital infidelity has existed for essentially as long as monogamous marriage has. Not everyone who promises to remain sexually and romantically faithful is capable of doing so, and many others simply stop trying to remain faithful.

Every year, thousands of marriages end when one spouse discovers that the other has conducted an extramarital affair. Although some people do attempt to work through adultery, it is still a leading cause of modern divorce filings.

If you have recently discovered that your spouse has been unfaithful, you have likely been through a difficult time recently. It is natural to want justice for the suffering you have endured. Will the New Jersey family courts change their rulings related to your divorce because of your spouse’s infidelity?

Infidelity rarely affects a judge’s decisions

The unfortunate truth for those stung by their spouse’s cheating is that the family courts have no interest in penalizing unfaithful spouses. Adultery typically doesn’t influence child custody matters in any way, and even in fault-based divorces, adultery will have minimal impact.

In theory, a judge can consider spousal misconduct as a relevant factor when dividing your marital property. However, they are very unlikely to give your spouse less or you more just because they cheated. You would need to have financial records showing that they wasted marital assets. If you can prove the dissipation of your shared property as a result of the infidelity, then a judge may consider those financial issues when making their final determination in your divorce.

Otherwise, infidelity largely only matters when the divorcing spouses have a marital agreement that imposes penalties for cheating. Even then, you’ll need proof or a confession from your spouse to convince the courts to impose those penalties.

A happy future can be the best revenge

Instead of digging in your heels and trying to find a way to punish your spouse for their behavior in court, you may want to instead embrace the old adage that a life well lived is the best revenge. Use your divorce as a springboard to the future and focus on the good that is ahead of you instead of on the difficult time you recently experienced.

Those who keep their focus on their long-term future instead of their short-term emotions are often able to secure better outcomes in New Jersey divorces. Learning more about the rules that apply to divorce proceedings can help those contemplating the end of their marriages because of a cheating spouse.


FindLaw Network