Adultery and Divorce
The Persistence of an Outdated Law
One reason why many people believe that adultery affects divorce proceedings is because, historically, that was actually true. Until fairly recently, adultery was grounds for divorce in most jurisdictions. However, over time, lawmakers began to see how unfair this standard was. After all, why should someone be able to end their marriage simply because their spouse had an affair? What if the affair occurred years ago and the couple had since reconciled? What if one spouse had multiple affairs but the other spouse chose to overlook them?
In response to these questions, many jurisdictions began reforming their laws regarding adultery and divorce. Today, only a handful of states still consider adultery when making decisions about divorce—and even in those states, the law is rarely enforced. And in Illinois, the only reason to get divorced is irreconcilable differences.
So, even though the idea that adultery affects divorce persists in many people’s minds, it really isn’t accurate. The law has moved on—it’s time for our perceptions to catch up.
Adultery and Public Opinion
Another reason why people believe that adultery has an impact on divorce proceedings is because infidelity is seen as morally wrong by many people. While there’s no question that having an affair can be devastating to a marriage, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person who committed adultery should be punished in a divorce. However, because public opinion often shapes our perceptions of what is right and wrong, it’s not surprising that many people believe that adultery should have some bearing on divorce cases—even though it really doesn’t.
Adultery and Emotional Pain
Finally, another reason why many people think that adultery affects divorce proceedings is because infidelity can cause a great deal of pain and suffering. While this pain and suffering may not be relevant from a legal perspective, it’s certainly understandable why someone would want their spouse to experience some sort of consequences if they’ve been unfaithful. Unfortunately, our justice system is not set up to administer punishments for moral transgressions—only legal ones. As a result, even though adultery can cause tremendous emotional damage, it really doesn’t have any effect on the actual divorce process.
However difficult it may be to accept, from a legal standpoint, infidelity simply isn’t relevant to divorce proceedings—no matter how hurtful it may be. If you’re considering divorcing your spouse because they’ve been unfaithful, it’s important to understand how the law views this issue so you can set realistic expectations for yourself and your family going forward.
One Exception – Dissipating Assets
If an adulterous spouse is spending lavishly on their new lover, to the point where they are wasting money on hotel rooms, gifts and vacations, the Court can listen to this evidence. But, that’s a post for another day
Adultery might be emotionally painful and morally wrong–but from a legal standpoint, it isn’t a basis to get a divorce Judge to punish one party and leave them with nothing. If you’re considering divorcing your adulterous spouse, know that their affair won’t give you an advantage in court. However difficult this news may be to accept,. It’s important to understand how the law views this issue so you can set realistic expectations for yourself and your family going forward. If you can work through your hurt, and decide negotiate with your soon-to-be-ex, I would love to help you get divorced. Call me or reach out to my office.