My Spouse Cheated, I Get Everything in the Divorce Right?
Getting divorced is always a highly emotional and stressful period for those involved, even when things end on relatively good terms. But any time adultery is involved, the emotions can sky rocket. The spouse who was cheated on is justifiably upset and are often times looking for some form of payback or restitution.
Unfortunately, for those spouses who live in “no-fault” states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, you will not get justice through your divorce. A no-fault state is one that grants a divorce based upon the agreement of the parties or when the marriage has broken down beyond repair. In no-fault divorces, the court does not deal with the reasoning behind the divorce, the court’s goal is merely to provide an avenue for people to get divorced if they so choose. In these no-fault states, the court will not award a spouse more of the marital assets just because adultery is involved. Instead, the court relies upon specific equitable distribution factors which can be found here for Pennsylvania and here for New Jersey. Similarly to the factors I discussed in my article about paying alimony, the equitable distribution factors mainly focus on the financial circumstances of the parties. The court’s intent is to fairly divide the assets and debts acquired during the marriage based upon the spouses’ incomes and financial footings, not based upon any marital misconduct.
However, it should be noted that Pennsylvania and New Jersey both will grant a divorce in the event of adultery. But even in those circumstances, the court still divides the marital assets using the same factors in the prior paragraph. Seeking a divorce based upon adultery is just a different route to obtain the divorce from the no-fault scenario. It does not change how the court ultimately divides the marital estate. Further, if you are seeking a divorce based upon adultery, you actually have to prove that your spouse cheated in open court. While airing your spouse’s dirty laundry might seem like a good way to get back at them, keep in mind, this will be a very expensive legal endeavor. And more importantly, as I discussed above, you will not gain anything financially from proceeding in this fashion.
So if you are looking for a leg up in getting the house or more of your spouse’s retirement, using adultery is not a worthwhile venture. You are better off consulting with an experienced family law attorney to discuss how the marital assets will be divided based upon the specific facts of your case.