Adultery as Grounds for Divorce

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Divorce is a legal end of a marriage. When an individual files for a divorce, the grounds must be declared based on which the divorce is to be granted. Grounds for divorce are the legal reasons to get a divorce. Each state in US has its own set of reasons for seeking both 'fault' and 'no-fault' divorce. Amongst various reasons for ending a marriage, adultery as grounds for divorce has been cited as a strong component in them in most of the states.

Adultery implies voluntary sexual intercourse of a married individual with another individual, other than his/her married partner. This is inclusive of heterosexual as well as homosexual relations. In several states that permit at-fault divorces, adultery is a very common ground for divorce. The person, who alleges adultery, must be able to furnish proof of this behavior of the person, against whom adultery is alleged. So, this is a very tough ground for divorce. While in most of no-fault based divorces, such evidence or proof may not be required.

Evidence of Adultery as Grounds for Divorce

If one person has simply a belief or feeling that his/her spouse is guilty of adultery, this is not sufficient ground for divorce in the court. It is easy to understand that it is a tough task to have eyewitness accounts or photographs of adultery.

In most of the states, if the accusing person submits circumstantial proof to the court regarding this topic, the court considers it adequate to consider adultery. Some instances of this proof are as follows:

  • The accused person was present in a hotel room with another person, who is not his married and legal spouse
  • The accused person has registered his name as well as another person's name (who is not his legal and married spouse) in the hotel as husband and wife
  • Video or photographic evidence of adulterous demeanor
  • There might be a baby born out of wedlock
  • Any third party might produce a testimonial regarding the cheating
  • Public displays of affection
  • Love letters
  • Online sources like social networking accounts, Internet chat history
  • Expensive gift bills

In case of some evidences, these are sometimes capable of being interpreted in two modes - of guilt or of innocence. Then, these prove inadequate to prove adultery.

Impact of Adultery as Grounds for Divorce

  • If the court is satisfied by evidences that adultery has taken place, then this may impact the spousal support and property distribution in the divorce case. However, adultery is just one of the several factors that the court considers regarding the 2 above points

  • Proof of adultery does not effect the decision regarding child custody. The court awards child custody as per the best interests of the child and after considering, who the primary caretaker of the child was during marriage. The behavior of the spouses has nothing to do with this decision

  • Likewise, adultery does not impact the amount of child support. This support is calculated by a set formula mentioned in the guidelines and adulterous demeanor does not alter the amount

Questions for a lawyer in Adultery cases

When a person, who is related to a divorce case, approaches a lawyer to utilize adultery as a ground for divorce, the person must ask the lawyer the following questions:

  • Does the lawyer have any experience with divorce cases related to adultery? If yes, for how many years
  • What sort of proof is essential to prove adultery in the case at hand?
  • Let us consider that the state in which this person resides permits no-fault as well as at-fault divorce. Then, should I file a no-fault or at-fault divorce?
  • My spouse practices homosexuality. Can this be treated as adultery?
  • Can I change the ground for divorce at any point if time after filing the divorce?

Determination of adultery as ground for divorce

Adultery is determined after a divorce case is filed in a respective family court. The adultery laws vary from State to state. In most of the states, the court determines the adultery case at its own discretion on proving the adultery ground. It is important to see when the adultery has taken place i.e. whether before the case was filed or after that. If it has been committed during marital period, then the judge considers it at-fault case and decides accordingly coupled with availability of proofs.

Finally, it can be concluded that adultery as grounds for divorce plays a significant role in a large number of divorce cases in the US. It is however considered relevant only when adultery has actually taken place in fault based cases. The accused in an adultery may have the option of contesting the grounds for divorce. However, if proven, the court takes a decision in favor of the innocent spouse by granting the divorce. The rate of infidelity cases have changed drastically since 50 years. Recent statistics revealed that the divorce cases with the grounds for adultery has been on a rise in recent years with over 20% cases. However, it is difficult to get an exact infidelity statistics as most of the cases are hidden or not discovered.

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