Infidelity is a heartbreaker – and a dealbreaker for many couples. Lots of big, messy emotions come pouring out that have the potential to spill over into divorce proceedings, making the process even more intense and stressful. 

Divorcing spouses may find themselves simultaneously feeling like they want to resolve things quickly so they can move on, but also feel the urge to be vindicated along the way.

It’s important to ask lots of questions and work with your attorney to understand how the circumstances of your case fit in with the law so you can make solid decisions during this difficult time. 

One question that frequently comes up is how cheating affects legal rulings in a divorce.  Although movies and TV tell us that a wronged spouse can “take their ex to the cleaners” for their painful behavior, New Jersey divorce law doesn’t work like that.

Don’t use it for your grounds for divorce

In the past, New Jersey allowed spouses to file for a “fault” divorce. This allowed for problems like drug abuse, cruelty, or adultery to be considered legal grounds for divorce and they factored into court decisions on alimony.

Today, you can still file for “fault” in a divorce, but it’s unlikely to factor into court rulings on issues like child custody or division of assets. What is likely to happen though is tumultuous, drawn-out, and costly litigation

Most couples end up filing a no-fault divorce, preferring a speedier, more cost-effective resolution. Couples can cite to “irreconcilable differences.” Nothing needs to be proved and there’s no mandatory period of separation before you can file. 

The above no-fault approach tends to be less stressful since there’s no need to publicly dissect your relationship before a court. However, this also means that the behavior – whether perceived or provable – doesn’t factor into divorce settlements. The goal of New Jersey divorce law is to divide assets, debts, and liabilities equitably (a term that should be differentiated from “fairly”, especially when emotions are involved) during a divorce. 

When does cheating matter?

That being said, there are sometimes cases where courts might consider adultery when dividing marital assets. 

Adultery typically comes into play when it significantly impacts the economic standing of a couple. 

For example, if the unfaithful spouse burned through marital savings or contributed little to the marriage while simultaneously having multiple affairs, a judge would weigh that information when handing down a divorce ruling in terms of dividing assets. 

If you’re dealing with a potential separation or divorce, you’re not alone. Keith Family Law will be happy to discuss how to proceed with your case and help you advocate for yourself and your family during this stressful experience. 

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