Infidelity, also called adultery, can deal a devastating blow to a marriage from which there may be no bouncing back. After an event like that is uncovered, it is not uncommon for one partner to feel betrayed and embarrassed. They may be unable or unwilling to place trust in the other person again. Without trust, the respect, communication, and shared bond may be gone, and a divorce might be the best option at that point.
Infidelity may play a role in divorce proceedings depending on where you live. Some states place little to no value on adultery when deciding the outcome of a divorce, while others slant heavily in favor of the non-offending spouse. If you and your spouse have found yourself in this situation, and you live in the state of Utah, your first step should be to hire your individual family law and divorce attorneys. Your next step is to learn how adultery may affect your divorce proceedings.
Infidelity in Utah
Legally speaking, adultery is consensual intercourse between one married person and another who is not their spouse. Up until recently, Utah and 21 other states considered it to be a crime. Specifically, it was a class B misdemeanor criminal offense in Utah. In reality, though, it was rarely prosecuted, and in 2019, Utah repealed its adultery law, meaning it is no longer considered a crime.
Adultery CAN be grounds for divorce, however. Utah offers a hybrid divorce approach allowing couples to opt for a “no-fault” or “fault-based” divorce. “No-fault” divorces are more common because they are less time and money-consuming than a “fault-based” divorce where one spouse must prove that the other caused the breakup through their misconduct. The evidence-gathering process and the extra time needed for the judge to finalize the divorce in a “fault-based” case add to the divorce proceedings’ cost and length. Thus, many couples choose not to pursue this route.
In what ways can adultery play a part in the outcomes of divorce proceedings?
Infidelity COULD determine the outcome of several key decisions such as child custody arrangements, alimony payments, or asset division, to name a few. Each family and case is unique, which is why it is so vital to hire an experienced attorney to review your situation with you and guide you down the right path. Here are just a few general ideas as to how adultery could affect a divorce settlement:
● Child Custody – The court considers multiple factors when determining custody arrangements. Those factors include but are not limited to:
- Parent/child bond
- Willingness and ability to parent
- Emotional stability
- Reports of abuse or neglect
- Substance abuse
- Religious compatibility
- Developmental needs of parent or child
Infidelity COULD play a role when determining the adultering spouse’s inability to parent or make sound decisions, especially if the unfaithful spouse did something during the affair that negatively and directly impacted the children.
● Alimony – In many marriages today, both spouses are gainfully employed. However, it’s still common for one spouse to earn a better living wage than the other. During the divorce proceedings, a court may order the spouse making the most money to make payments to the more financially dependent spouse. This payment is called alimony. However, if during a “fault-based” case of infidelity you and your attorney present evidence to the judge proving adultery was the leading cause of the breakup, alimony COULD be denied to that dependent spouse.
● Assets and Property – While adultery does not usually play a factor in determining the division of property and assets in a divorce, it can if the cheating spouse used shared assets to finance the affair. Also, a more significant share of the property could be given to the faithful spouse to compensate for shared finances that were spent on the affair.
● Negotiations – Often, the results of infidelity are seen at the negotiating table. Most divorces (more than 85%, by some estimates) are settled out of court and never go to trial. These negotiations that happen outside of court are usually the proceedings most affected by adultery. It is typical that the faithful spouse feels resentful and deserving of retribution, while the unfaithful spouse feels guilty or even angry at him- or herself. These feelings can influence the negotiations and their outcome.
With so many different aspects to consider when it comes to infidelity and divorce, it is important that you hire your own attorney from a family law practice with experience dealing with the nuances of adultery and divorce in Utah if you and your spouse have found yourselves in this tough situation. The right attorney can help you gather evidence, negotiate, file paperwork, and provide a myriad of other services and benefits to guide you through this complicated and emotional process.