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The Impact of An Extramarital Affair on An Arizona Divorce

Law Office of Tad Davis March 16, 2017

As you can imagine, adultery can turn an already stressful divorce into an emotional firestorm. It may be tempting for couples to play the blame game in their divorce proceedings. The question is, can a history of cheating legally affect the outcome of your divorce? In most circumstances, an extramarital affair will not affect your divorce case. However, there are a few exceptions in which an affair or decisions connected with an affair may impact your case.

Grounds for Divorce

Arizona is a “no-fault” state, meaning you don’t need to prove that one spouse harmed the other with some form of marital misconduct. A sufficient reason for divorce would be “irreconcilable differences” between the two of you. After you’ve made a formal request, the courts will simply grant the divorce, with one exception. If you were in a covenant marriage—a special Arizona marriage that involves premarital counseling—then you are permitted to seek a fault-based divorce if your spouse was unfaithful.

Alimony (Spousal Maintenance) Awards

The point of alimony is to help one ex-spouse who has fewer career opportunities, earning abilities, and financial resources compared to the other spouse. Judges will weigh several different factors, and while adultery itself isn’t one of them, it could still come into play. For example, an unfaithful spouse living with another partner may lose his or her entitlement to alimony because they have a source of financial support. Alimony orders may also be affected when one spouse hides or spends abnormal amounts of money because of an extramarital affair.

Distribution of Assets

The distribution of assets has more to do with deciding who is entitled to what, rather than making one spouse pay penance for bad behavior. It is usually handled in a strict financial sense. When one spouse uses marital assets to support an extramarital relationship, however, the other spouse can likely expect some recompense.

Child Custody

In a typical divorce case, adultery has no impact on child custody. Judges place a focus on the child’s best interests. They will consider each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s education, health care, and overall quality of life, among other factors. One parent’s fidelity to the other generally does not play a role. The only exception is if the cheating spouse exposed the children to inappropriate people, behavior, or situations during the course of an affair; then a judge may be less inclined to rule in that person’s favor.

Settlement Negotiations

Cheating may have an emotional effect on the negotiation of a divorce settlement, as opposed to a direct legal impact. Divorce cases usually result in the parties coming to a settlement, but a history of adultery can complicate the process for both spouses. A cheating spouse may feel guilty and make more concessions, or the other spouse may push for better terms out of resentment. Real life is often more complex than these simple examples, though, and an extramarital affair can sway the settlement negotiations in many other ways.

A history of adultery can also affect court divorce proceedings unconsciously, leading a judge to find less credibility in the unfaithful spouse’s case. The best thing you can do in the midst of a divorce is keep calm and call an experienced attorney. The Law Office of Tad Davis is here to support you and address your legal concerns throughout this difficult time in your life. Give our trusted family lawyer a call for compassionate, effective legal representation.