The most frustrating obstacle when facing divorce is a deceitful soon-to-be-ex.  It's a painful experience both emotionally and practically.  At some point you just want to move forward and get this person out of your life.

If your spouse is being dishonest about his infidelity and you wish to pursue a divorce, you will need to cope with the adultery and divorce in two ways: emotionally and legally. 

While the painful realization that your spouse violated his vows may cause you to emotionally respond to his behavior, making appropriate legal and/or investigative actions will initiate the lasting effect of his poor decision making, hopefully to your benefit.

Like many, you are faced with financial responsibilities that force you to fight for a judgement in your favor.  Alimony and equitable distribution can be affected by proven adultery in many states.  But what's officially recognized as adultery and how does it affect your divorce? 

Details about adultery

Laws vary in every state.  An attorney in your residing state can counsel you regarding adultery, how it may affect your judgement and divorce. There are some general facts about when adultery can be used as a reason for divorce and how it can be proven.

Every state requires you to have grounds for divorce if your divorce is a fault divorce.  This basically means you're claiming your spouse has done something that has dismantled the marriage.  If you choose this type of divorce, then adultery can be a reason. Other reasons vary depending on your state, but may include domestic violence or cruelty, bigamy, mental illness, abandonment, etc.

All states offer you the opportunity for a no-fault divorce.  A no-fault divorce is basically irreconcilable differences.

What is adultery

Speak with an attorney in your state regarding the legal definition and what is considered adultery as grounds for divorce within the jurisdiction for which it will be filed.

The nonlegal definition is as follows: adultery is when a spouse has engaged in a voluntary, sexual relationship with someone other than his/her spouse.   

Is it adultery if it began after separation?

A common occurrence 

Morally and religiously speaking, most would answer yes.  However, a great deal of people begin dating after separating for the purpose of divorce.  In most cases, the divorce has emotionally ended (meaning one or more spouses has emotionally detached from the marriage and considers the relationship as a married couple over) and the legal establishment of the dissolution is just a formality.

Not a good idea legally

Many legal experts advise waiting until the divorce is legally established before either spouse begins a new relationship that could compromise their divorce case/settlement.

If you are legally separated, the court may still consider a sexual relationship as adultery.   However, much of the time, if a relationship starts after a legal separation is established, adultery is not used as grounds for divorce.   It's also important to know that the guidelines for legal separation vary from state-to-state.

Experience matters

When "adultery as grounds for divorce" is the direction you wish to take, you will want to consult an attorney in your state who has experience with similar cases.  This is especially important if your spouse has continued to be dishonest and difficult.  Upon consulting with a potential attorney, they should be able to advise you if the pursuit of such grounds will be financially advantageous or if it will be better to pursue different grounds or a "no fault divorce" based on your individual circumstances.

Proof of adultery

If you have proof the adultery took place, you may receive a better settlement to include maintenance, child support and division of assets.  

If your spouse has not been honest about his/her adultery, then you will need to gather evidence.  You may need to hire a private investigator to help you gather evidence to prove the adultery.  It isn't a good idea to try to do this kind of investigating without the help of a professional.  It may induce choices that make things worse for you and your settlement and/or be unlawful or generally unsafe.

Direct evidence may include pictures or a witness.  Circumstantial evidence is when it can be shown that your spouse had the interest and opportunity to have a sexual relationship with someone other than you while still married.  Adultery then may be proven if the court deems direct or circumstantial evidence you provided is reasonable. 

Adultery and the settlement

However, most judges award your settlement based on financial need rather than on the basis of adultery (though it may still be considered in the overall settlement).  Though adultery may not be required as grounds for divorce in order to receive a more favorable settlement, often the injured party will have investigative and legal fees that may produce a more favorable outcome than her spouse.  Unfortunately, these extra costs may outweigh the financial benefit of a higher settlement.  

Costs vs. outcome

It may be the most inane circumstance of divorce when one or both spouses allow emotions to overtake their case with pale regard to the financial outcome for either spouse. 

In the case where a spouse spends more time, frustration and money to prove her spouse an adulterer or make him financially recognize his wrongdoings at any expense, it comes down to deciding if the costs for the sake of righteousness is worth it.   Some would undoubtedly say it is-

Think five years ahead when making decisions

When making legal decisions while divorcing an adulterous spouse, consider tomorrow instead of today.  While you may want the satisfaction of a legal establishment of your pain, your future should be primary when making decisions. 

The idea that your spouse is not forthcoming about his infidelity is difficult and your inclination to prove he's a liar may cause you to take action that may affect your future.  Don't let his actions cause you to look back years from now, still  blaming him for his actions and feeling guilty for overspending on legal fees, money that could have provided you a better future outcome.

Often there is a considerable, overall financial loss when balancing the costs to prove the adultery against any benefit through the financial settlement.  In many cases, it's a classic example, the ends fail to justify the means.  Often, regret falls on both sides as the emotions decrease and the reality of the legal expense for emotional settlement is realized.

Emotional Settlement 

In addition to the legal issues that surround your situation, you will want to begin to deal with the ending of your marriage.  You will want to understand the Stages of Divorce so that you can identify with your feelings and begin to pursue the stages that allow you to grieve, accept, let go and move forward.  Understand that your feelings will likely be turbulent for some time and that you may revert to previous stages when problems arise during your divorce. 

It's important to continue to add positive things in your life to counteract the negative, hurtful and complicated journey through your divorce.  You may want to pursue new hobbies, friends or wellness rituals in order to stay forward thinking and to keep the divorce from taking over your life.  If you feel you need a greater support system you may want to seek a local divorce support group, counseling or therapy.  You should find what helps keep your mind, body and spirit healthy and active in a time when life seems to get sluggish.  After reading this, you may still feel heavily focused on the problem, but truly consider yourself and well-being as a priority during this time.

Remember that this is a difficult time in your life and though it feels lousy, it won't be forever.


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