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Does Infidelity Affect the Outcome of the Divorce? 

Law Office of MariAnn Hathaway June 12, 2024

Women finds husband with mistress in bedGoing through a divorce can be complicated and emotionally draining. And when infidelity is thrown into the mix, it just makes everything even more complicated.  

You might wonder if infidelity can impact how your divorce plays out. Let's take a closer look at how cheating can affect divorce proceedings, what to expect during the legal process, and what you can do to look out for yourself. 

Understanding Infidelity and Divorce

Infidelity, or adultery, occurs when one spouse has a sexual relationship with someone outside the marriage. The emotional toll of infidelity can be devastating, but does it have legal implications? 

In many states, including Pennsylvania, divorce laws can consider marital misconduct, like infidelity, when making decisions. However, it’s important to understand how these laws are applied and that many other factors are at play. 

Property Division and Alimony 

Most states divide assets using either equitable distribution or community property principles. In equitable distribution states like Pennsylvania, the court divides assets in a manner deemed fair but not necessarily equal.  

Infidelity may influence the court's decision particularly if marital funds were used to support the affair. However, this impact varies widely based on the judge’s discretion and the specifics of the case. 

Child Custody and Support 

Child custody and support are two areas where the best interests of the child take precedence. Infidelity alone typically does not affect custody arrangements unless it can be shown that the unfaithful parent’s actions directly harmed the child.  

Courts focus more on each parent’s ability to provide a stable and supportive environment rather than their marital fidelity. 

Divorce in Pennsylvania 

In Pennsylvania, divorces can be either "fault" or "no-fault."  

No-Fault Divorce

A no-fault divorce means that neither spouse blames the other for the dissolution of the marriage. Instead, divorce is based on "irretrievable breakdown" or mutual consent. Infidelity does not play a role in no-fault divorces. 

In a no-fault divorce, both parties can reach a resolution without delving into the specifics of marital misconduct, which often makes the process less contentious and faster.  

Because the grounds of the divorce are not attributed to any individual's actions, it allows couples to focus on negotiating terms such as property division, alimony, and child custody more amicably.  

This approach reduces the emotional strain on both partners and any children involved, promoting a more collaborative environment for resolving remaining issues. 

Fault Divorce

In a fault divorce, one spouse claims that the other is responsible for the marriage ending due to specific reasons, including infidelity. Pennsylvania recognizes several grounds for fault divorce, such as: 

  • Adultery or infidelity 

  • Abandonment 

  • Cruelty 

  • Imprisonment 

If a spouse can prove infidelity, it may impact the court's decisions on issues like alimony and the distribution of marital assets.  

Courts may grant a greater share of marital property to the aggrieved spouse, especially if the errant spouse's conduct was particularly blatant or financially damaging.  

For example, if marital funds were used to finance an adulterous relationship, the court might compensate the injured spouse accordingly. 

Moreover, proving fault can sometimes speed up the divorce process. In situations where the grounds for fault are clear and well-documented, the divorce proceedings may move more swiftly than a no-fault divorce, sparing both parties an extended period of emotional and financial turmoil. 

Pursuing a fault divorce can be more complicated and contentious. It involves gathering and presenting concrete evidence of the misconduct, which might include private investigations and a lot of legal paperwork.  

This process can be invasive and make the divorce even more adversarial, potentially resulting in higher legal costs and prolonged distress for both parties and any children involved. 

Besides, not all infidelity claims result in favorable outcomes for the accusing spouse. The accuser has the burden of proof, and without sufficient evidence, the claims may have little impact on the division of assets and alimony. 

As with any legal matter, it is advisable to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the complications of a fault-based claim. 

What to do if Infidelity Is Involved in Your Divorce

Here’s what you can do if you’re planning to divorce a cheating spouse: 

  • Gather evidence: If you suspect or know of infidelity, gather evidence discreetly. This can include emails, text messages, photos, or witness testimonies. Ensure that you obtain evidence legally, as illegally obtained evidence may not be admissible in court. 

  • Consult an attorney: Speak with a family law attorney who understands Pennsylvania laws. They can provide guidance on how infidelity may impact your case and help you develop a strategy. 

  • Maintain stability for children: If you have children, focus on maintaining their stability and well-being. Avoid exposing them to conflicts or discussing infidelity issues in their presence. 

  • Consider counseling: Infidelity can be emotionally taxing. Consider seeking counseling or therapy to help you process your emotions and make informed decisions. 

  • Be financially prepared: Monitor your financial situation closely. Check bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial statements to ensure that marital assets are not being depleted. You may also consider opening a separate bank account to secure your financial future. 

  • Communicate effectively: Aim to keep lines of communication open and civil with your spouse, especially if children are involved. Clear and respectful communication can help avoid further conflict and facilitate smoother negotiations about divorce terms. 

  • Protect your privacy: Be cautious about sharing information regarding your divorce or infidelity on social media, as it can be used against you in court. Maintain discretion and consider adjusting your privacy settings. 

  • Stay objective: Try to make decisions based on logic rather than emotions. Infidelity can stir intense feelings, but remaining objective will help you negotiate more effectively and make better long-term decisions for your future. 

  • Document everything: Keep detailed records of all interactions with your spouse, financial transactions, and relevant incidents related to the divorce. This documentation can be crucial if disputes arise and can provide evidence to support your claims in court. 

Speak With a Family Law Attorney in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Attorney MariAnn Hathaway has proudly served clients in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, since 1990, including Washington County. With attentive listening and expert evaluation, she confidently guides clients to peaceful, favorable resolutions. Regardless of the legal issues involved, MariAnn delivers high-quality, compassionate services, always respecting your time and budget. 

If you're looking for a divorce lawyer with professionalism, honesty, straightforward advice, and ethical representation, call the Law Office of MariAnn Hathaway today.