Can one parent’s adultery affect custody in New Jersey?

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Marriages can fall apart in an instant when one spouse discovers that the other is unfaithful. Adultery is a betrayal of the entire family. Someone who cheats puts the health of their spouse at risk and puts their children at risk of the negative impact of divorce causes.

A spouse reeling from the betrayal of adultery often wants to know how cheating might affect a New Jersey divorce. When there are children in the family, someone might expect a judge to consider adultery when making decisions about custody matters.

Adultery typically does not affect custody

As hard as it can be to hear, the courts did not consider adultery or other forms of marital misconduct in most aspects of a New Jersey divorce. A judge does not penalize someone for cheating by severing their relationship with their children.

Although there is an argument to be made that a parent who cheats cannot provide a good moral example for their children and may engage in other unethical behaviors, judges don’t consider such arguments when dividing parenting time. Their focus is on the best interests of the children, and that usually entails maintaining a healthy relationship with both of their parents.

There are two potential exceptions to this general rule. The first is a scenario in which adultery becomes the catalyst for domestic violence. When someone has become violent toward their spouse and children because of the conflict an affair creates, a judge might limit that adult’s access to the children.

The other exception is when an affair partner is potentially a risk to the children. If a new romantic partner has a history of violent criminal activity, child abuse or addiction, that might potentially affect custody. Especially if they live together or the parent expects to leave the children with their affair partner while they work, a judge might limit their parenting time and authority because of that risk.

Barring those extreme and unusual circumstances, someone who has discovered that their spouse cheated has to prepare for the reality of sharing parenting time and authority with their unfaithful spouse. Learning more about what rules apply to child custody matters in New Jersey can help parents better prepare for family court or negotiations with their spouse.

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