Does Cheating Matter in a Divorce?

It is a fairly common storyline in movies and television dramas: “Scorned spouse hires attorney to take cheating partner to the cleaners!”

However, the reality of the situation is that most divorce courts could care less whether you or your spouse cheated. As difficult and distressing as it may be to deal with marital infidelity, it is often irrelevant to a divorce proceeding.

In some states, the court system does not even offer the traditional grounds of adultery, abandonment, or cruelty upon which to grant a divorce. Ohio recognizes both no-fault divorce remedies, including incompatibility and living separately for a period of one year, as well as traditional fault-oriented grounds, such as adultery, extreme cruelty, and habitual drunkenness. While adultery may be asserted as grounds for divorce, this is not to say that a judge will care if the other spouse cheated. This is because Ohio is generally considered a no-fault divorce state. If a spouse has an affair or is otherwise predominately responsible for the breakdown of the marriage, the innocent spouse is not automatically entitled to any sort of special or punitive award in a divorce.

There are certain scenarios in which your spouse’s conduct could be relevant to your divorce. One such instance occurs when a spouse has conducted financial misconduct during the marriage or the divorce proceedings. Financial misconduct may include dissipating marital assets by providing substantial support and gifts to a new partner or hiding or concealing marital assets. Under these circumstances, a court may take his/her misconduct under consideration when making a determination as to a fair division of marital assets and liabilities.

A spouse’s poor conduct may also be relevant to a custody arrangement if children are involved in a divorce. If it is established that a spouse suffers from a drinking or drug problem or is dating a new paramour with a criminal record, these considerations could be relevant to crafting a custody arrangement that is both healthy and safe for the children.

Additionally, if one spouse is seeking spousal support (also referred to as alimony), cohabitation with a new romantic partner may be relevant. While not required, Ohio courts may consider denying spousal support to a spouse who is cohabitating and sharing expenses with a new romantic partner. However, there is no guarantee that a court will deny spousal support in this situation. Importantly, if the correct language is not used in divorce documents, a court may actually be barred from modifying or terminating spousal support after a divorce if an ex-spouse later cohabitates with a significant other who may completely support him/her.

While an Ohio court generally will not penalize a spouse purely because he/she took part in unbecoming conduct, this is not to say that their conduct may not relevant to other aspects of a divorce case. This why a scorned spouse should speak with an attorney in order to determine what he/she may be entitled to and how to best accomplish their goals. While it is not required to hire an attorney to represent you in a divorce, you could end up paying for it later if you do not.

Don’t make a costly mistake in your domestic relations matter. Contact the experienced attorneys at Arenstein & Andersen Co., LPA and set up your free divorce/dissolution consultation.

About Arenstein & Andersen Co., LPA

Arenstein & Andersen Co., LPA is a Dublin, Ohio law firm that provides comprehensive representation in all areas of domestic law including: divorces, dissolutions, annulments, shared parenting plans, and post-decree matters such as child support, alimony, and visitation modifications.