Of course, cheating is something that can destroy a marriage. But what part does cheating play in the legal aspects of a divorce? Does the fact that a spouse cheated have any impact on child custody or alimony?
As a general rule, the answer to these questions is no. New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state. That means that the court does not look to or care whose fault the divorce is, or who did what to cause the parties to divorce. The fact that a person may have cheated on their spouse will not make a court see that person as a “bad person,” or a lesser-equipped parent of any shared children.
The side-effects of a cheating spouse may have some impact on a divorce settlement, however. Cheating usually does not happen in a vacuum. There are often overlooked consequences of an extra-marital affair, and those consequences can bear on issues in the divorce.
Effects on Alimony and Property Division
When people cheat on their spouse, they spend money to do so. If spouse A is spending $1,000 a month on his or her girl or boyfriend, spouse A is committing marital waste—wasting the assets of the marriage. That spouse will have a hard time claiming that he or she does not have the money to pay alimony.
The same is true for property division. Assume that at the time of the divorce, the marital business was to be failing, and spouse A says that he or she cannot pay alimony because the business is doing so poorly. Later it turns out that t\spouse A is spending thousands of the businesses’ dollars a month on an extra-marital affair. The business is likely failing not because of an economic downturn, but because money is being spent outside the marriage. That spouse will again have a hard time saying he or she cannot pay an alimony award.
Cheating and Parenting Decisions
The fact that a spouse may have cheated will not make him or her a lesser parent. But what if the parent was neglecting the child because he or she was so involved in the extra-marital affair?
Likewise, if the parent was doing drugs or excessive alcohol around the children or leaving the child alone with people they just met (like new boyfriends or girlfriends), that may be evidence of a pattern of neglect, or an unwillingness to make the sacrifices needed to safely care for a child.
Furthermore, just introducing a child to a boyfriend or girlfriend while the spouses are still married can evidence a disregard for the child’s safety or welfare.
Are you thinking of divorce and have questions about how it will affect your life, or the life of your children? Contact our New Jersey Divorce attorneys at The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC for help today.