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How Does Cheating Factor Into My Divorce?

Caleb Bland Law, PLLC Feb. 1, 2022

For as many reasons as two people decide to get married, there are just as many reasons why it may eventually end. These splits are always emotionally hard, but some can be rather amicable while others are incredibly painful. This is especially true when adultery is involved in a divorce. Although infidelity is shockingly common (20% of men and 13% of women admit to cheating on their spouse), you may be wondering if your particular situation has any bearing on your divorce. For help with these and other questions surrounding divorce, reach out to Caleb Bland Law, PLLC, to speak with an experienced family law attorney. We’re compassionate professionals who can help you look at all your options. Although our offices are in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, we can also serve clients in the surrounding counties, including Hardin, Meade, Grayson, Breckinridge, Nelson, LaRue, Hart, Bullitt, and Jefferson.

Kentucky is a No-Fault State

Divorce laws vary from state to state, with some known as “fault” states and some as “no-fault” states. In a “fault” state, one spouse can allege that the other was responsible for the divorce occuring. This could be on grounds of adultery, neglect, criminal involvement, or substance abuse. These factors can then be considered when a judge decides how assets are divided or how much alimony (called maintenance in Kentucky) will be awarded. However, in a “no fault” state, these factors are not considered, and no one has to be held responsible for the divorce to go through. As long as the court deems that the married couple has ”irreconcilable differences,” a divorce will be granted. This helps streamline the legal process and has been shown to result in more cordial divorces.

Kentucky, along with 16 other states, is a no-fault state, meaning even if your marriage did end because of adultery, a judge will typically not consider this in determining things like child custody or division of assets. This can often come as a shock to those who have been cheated on. Understandably, you’ve been hurt and want to feel that there’s some sort of justice due, or that your spouse will incur some sort of consequence for their actions. However, adultery is not a crime in Kentucky, and only in very specific circumstances can it affect the outcome of your divorce.

Kentucky also follows an equitable division of property rule, which means that marital property is divided equitably (fairly) and not necessarily equally. So, occasionally, it’s possible that the actions one spouse took related to their adultery could affect the division of assets to make things “equitable.”

Can Adultery Affect Division of Assets or Child Custody?

In the vast majority of cases, adultery will not affect the division of assets or child custody. Because Kentucky is a no-fault state, a court won’t be concerned with the cause of the divorce. Adultery in and of itself cannot be used as justification from either spouse to either receive more of the marital assets or to request custody or more parenting time of any joint children.

However, there could be circumstances that are related to the infidelity that may affect asset division in cases where you can show “marital misconduct.” For example, imagine that one spouse had an affair and used the couple’s joint money and resources to spend lavishly on their extramarital partner. A judge may decide that they acted recklessly with the marital assets, and should therefore be awarded less than their “fair share” to make up for what they spent without the other spouse’s approval. However, to achieve this outcome, you would have to provide ample documentation to prove the extent of the reckless spending.

The other way marital misconduct (like cheating) may affect your divorce is through alimony. Alimony (maintenance) is not automatically awarded in a divorce, and it would be highly unlikely that a judge decided that alimony should be paid solely on the basis of one partner committing adultery. However, if alimony is deemed appropriate (for financial reasons), a judge may elect to have one spouse give or receive more or less based on prior misconduct. Again, this would be rare, but not unheard of.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

When you go through a legal separation or divorce, you’ll likely feel burdened by all the new aspects of your life you have to now negotiate. From dividing assets, to finding a new place to live, to sharing parenting time with your now ex-spouse: this can be time consuming and exhausting. It can be immensely helpful to hire a divorce attorney who understands the law and can provide the legal support you need. If you’re in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, or the neighboring cities of Radcliff, Shepherdsville, Bardstown, Brandenburg, Leitchfield, Hodgenville, or Louisville, contact us at Caleb Bland Law, PLLC to get started.