Does It Matter If My Spouse Cheated In a ‘No-Fault’ Divorce State?

Infidelity in marriage (or any relationship) can be a painful issue to deal with.

In many cases, when one or both spouses have been unfaithful, and the other spouse finds out, they file for divorce. Because it is such a painful experience to have a spouse betray your trust, there is usually a tremendous amount of anger involved. This can lead to a vindictive mindset, and often leads to wanting to inflict pain through the divorce process.

Do Affairs Matter In a No-Fault Divorce?

When clients hear the term “no-fault divorce”, they often feel that the conduct within their marriage has no impact on the divorce process. Calling it “no-fault” is somewhat misleading, as there is always a cause for a divorce. Due to this misunderstanding, it can seem like whatever your spouse has done, or whatever you have done, throughout the course of your marriage isn’t relevant to a divorce proceeding. However, this is not true.

What does no-fault divorce actually mean?

No-fault divorce refers to the ability of either spouse to file for divorce without declaring or proving a cause. The process was first introduced in the mid 20th-century as a way to further gender equality efforts, as many states required a cause to be on the record to file for divorce. Traditionally, divorce was only granted if one spouse could prove that the other had committed a fault, such as adultery, abuse, desertion, or other significant misconduct. These fault-based divorce laws were strict, and the requirement to prove fault often made the process contentious and public.

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How Does Infidelity Play Into Spousal Support?

Fault, such as infidelity, physical abuse and other issues can be taken into account when the court is dividing debts or assets. It also plays a major role in determining alimony, or spousal support. In Michigan, spousal support is considered based on the following factors:

  • the past relations and conduct of the parties
  • the length of the marriage,
  • the abilities of the parties to work,
  • the source and amount of property awarded to the parties,
  • the parties’ ages, health and
  • the abilities of the parties to pay alimony,
  • the present situation of the parties,
  • the needs of the parties
  • the prior standard of living of the parties
  • contributions of the parties to the joint estate,
  • a party’s fault in causing the divorce,
  • the effect of cohabitation on a party’s financial status
  • general principles of equity

As you can see, cheating can be considered in terms of the past relations and conduct of the parties. It is especially important to note that if you are alleging an extramarital affair took place, you will need to provide proof to the court.

Infidelity and Property Division

Fault can also be taken into account when dividing the property.  While the courts start off with a relatively equal division of the property and debts of the parties, the law actually requires the division to be equitable.  To determine whether the division of property is equitable, a court is required to consider the following factors:

  • the source of property
  • contribution toward its acquisition
  • the years of married life
  • the needs of the parties
  • their earning ability
  • the cause for divorce
  • age and health of the parties
  • life status of the parties
  • past relations and conduct of the parties
  • general principles of equity

As you can see, the conduct of the married couple matters a great deal in both determining spousal support and the division of property. Because Michigan operates on a principle of equitable distribution, it may not always be an equal distribution in terms of the value of the property. This provides a judge significant discretion and leeway when making these decisions.

Contact The Mitten Law Firm to get the expert divorce representation you need.

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