Adultery can destroy the trust a loving relationship is supposed to be built on, and is often enough of a transgression to push the person who was cheated on to file for divorce. However, depending on which state you live in, infidelity may not carry as much weight in the courtroom as you expect. For example, Florida is one of a growing number of states that have instituted “no fault” divorce, which means that the only reason a spouse needs to give when seeking a divorce is that their marriage is past the point of fixing. This removes the court’s responsibility to assign fault to either party, and gives the spouses the option of not addressing emotionally painful topics in court.
However, if one spouse committed adultery, it could impact how the judge rules on child custody, property division, and alimony payments.
Child Custody: Judges will always rule in favor of the best interests of the child in debates over who receives primary custody of children, and depending on how one spouse’s infidelity affected the child’s wellbeing, the guilty party could have their visitation or custody rights diminished. If the court determines that the adultery negatively affected the spouse’s “moral fitness,” a factor considered when making a custody ruling, the other spouse is more likely to receive a favorable ruling.
Property Division: While Florida may be an equitable distribution state – all liabilities and marital assets will be evenly split between the spouses following a divorce proceeding – other factors could change how that split is made. If the adultery occurred over a prolonged period of time and included paying for dinners, trips, gifts, assistance with car or house payments, etc., then the court may determine that spending was a waste of marital assets and deduct the amount from the adulterer’s portion of the split in order to compensate their spouse.
“The court may consider the adultery of either spouse and the circumstances thereof in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded.”
While the final decision on how much, if any, alimony should be awarded comes down to the judge, they have the option of increasing the amount the spouse who was cheated on receives or decreasing the amount the adulterous spouse receives.
Alimony for Adultery in Florida?
Florida is often referred to as a no fault divorce state. The lack of a requirement to prove fault when getting a divorce in Florida is generally thought of as contributing to a shorter divorce case. No longer do couples going through a family law case have to prove that the other spouse is at fault to get a divorce.
Often times parties who have been cheated on are not happy about Florida's family laws not giving more to aggrieved spouses. In the Weymouth v. Weymouth case, one Florida court did find that alimony was appropriate because of one spouse's adultery.
In the Weymouth case, the parties reached an antenuptial agreement (prenup) that stated that there would be no alimony, unless one party committed adultery. In this case, because the antenuptial agreement provided for alimony upon a finding of adultery, the wife was entitled to alimony when circumstantial evidence showed that the husband was involved in an affair, and that affair was found to be the basis for the divorce.
Even though Florida is a no fault divorce state, adultery can still affect how the court rules on any or all of these areas. Because divorce proceedings can quickly become complicated affairs, it’s important to hire qualified legal representation to assist you in court or in a mediation session. At Givens Givens Sparks, PLLC, our Tampa divorce attorneys understand what it takes to fight for a favorable outcome, and are prepared to work with you to ensure that you can work through this difficult time and move on with your life. Call us at (813) 336-3348 to speak with one of our divorce lawyers, or contact us today to request a case consultation.