There are numerous reasons why someone who made a lifetime commitment to a romantic partner might file for divorce. Abuse, criminal activity and changing personal values are all common reasons that Massachusetts couples call it quits. Sometimes, the most abrupt and difficult divorces begin because one spouse uncovers evidence that the other has been on faithful. Adultery is, for most people, an innate violation of the vow of faithfulness that spouses make to each other when they get married.
Extramarital affairs divert resources from the marital relationship, expose the other spouse to health risks and devastate the trust necessary for a healthy marriage. Someone who has recently discovered that their spouse is unfaithful may want to divorce as soon as possible. Can they expect the adultery of their partner to have much impact on their divorce proceedings?
Most divorces are no-fault filings
Massachusetts law permits a no-fault divorce where neither spouse has to prove anything about the conduct of the other. Even those who have evidence of extramarital affairs often pursue no-fault divorces because proving a lack of faithfulness will have minimal influence on the outcome of the divorce process.
Massachusetts state law requires an equitable division of marital resources. Judges usually cannot consider marital misconduct, like unfaithfulness, when deciding how to divide property. The adultery of one spouse will not typically influence custody matters either. Judges want what is best for the children, which will usually involve giving both parents plenty of time with the kids regardless of why they divorce. Even alimony won’t change based on someone’s infidelity unless there is a marital agreement between the spouses that provides for specific consequences. Unless there is a marital agreement in play that imposes penalties for unfaithfulness, even validated claims of unfaithfulness will have minimal influence on what the courts do next.
If one spouse has proof that the other used marital resources on their affair, then that evidence might influence property division matters. The courts might exclude any debts generated due to adultery from the marital estate, making them the responsibility of the unfaithful spouse alone. They might also consider any amount previously spent as a form of dissipation and could adjust property division terms to reflect the marital resources wasted on an affair.
Although the courts do not offer much in the form of justice after one spouse violates their vows to the other, they can at least free someone from a broken marriage so that they can pursue a happier future. Learning about how adultery affects the Massachusetts divorce process may help people put together the optimal negotiation or family court strategy given their circumstances.