Does Infidelity Matter in Divorce?
Marriages end for a large number of reasons, but one circumstance that often drives this decision is infidelity by a spouse. Not being able to trust a spouse to remain faithful is a deal killer for most relationships, and is bound to generate a lot of emotional pain. The wronged spouse may also feel compelled to air this information in the ensuing divorce proceedings as a way to retaliate for the bad behavior. However, since Florida is a no-fault divorce State, does infidelity have any bearing on the outcome of a divorce? Courts generally do not have an interest in hearing the details surrounding the demise of a marriage unless it directly relates to a matter relevant to the divorce, such as property division or child custody. Whether infidelity will impact the final decision in divorce is largely dependent on how it affected the couple’s finances and the welfare of their children. Two senators from Florida were recently forced to acknowledge extramarital affairs after incriminating video footage of the two emerged. Admitting infidelity is socially embarrassing, but not automatically legally significant. A discussion of when infidelity may influence the resolution of issues in divorce will follow below.
Because Florida is a no-fault State, all a spouse must do to receive a divorce is allege the couple are no longer compatible. Consequently, regardless of whether the other spouse learns of the infidelity, or if it comes out in the divorce case, a court will grant the dissolution as long as one spouse claims irreconcilable differences. However, it could have a bearing, though infidelity would need to be proven, on the division of property. If an unfaithful spouse used marital funds to buy gifts or support the adulterous relationship, which diminished the assets available for division, the court can give the innocent spouse a greater share of the marital estate to compensate for the loss. The division would differ from the 50/50 split that most divorcing spouses receive in the interests of fairness.
Alimony is awarded according to the needs of one party, and the ability of the other party to pay. Florida law specifically directs courts to factor infidelity into the analysis of an alimony award. A judge would be looking for evidence of financial harm, usually through extravagant spending, to the innocent spouse, and will add this circumstance to the other factors a court must examine. Generally speaking, before a court can settle on an amount, it must first evaluate the financial situations of each spouse to see if each side will have adequate resources for support post-divorce. Alimony awards are very much at the discretion of the courts, so having a strong and knowledgeable divorce attorney to handle this issue in front the court is vital to achieving the desired outcome.
Infidelity rarely touches on child custody matters, but courts always look to the best interests of the child in making custody-related decisions. If there is some aspect of the adulterous relationship that may affect the child’s welfare, physically and/or emotionally, the amount of parenting time and decision-making responsibility could be limited. For example, leaving the child alone to meet with the object of the affair, or exposing the child to unsafe situations related to the infidelity (drugs, violence, sexual situations) could have negative repercussions on the amount of parenting time granted.
Talk to a Florida Divorce Attorney
Divorce involves many complicated and interconnected layers that will impact your life for years to come. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. understands the challenges and issues you will face, and will work to obtain a fair and quick resolution of your case. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-672-1900 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+