Adultery is a painful betrayal that often destroys a marriage and upends an entire family. But are there legal ramifications if the adultery ultimately leads to a divorce?
In fact, a husband who cheats on his wife could dramatically alter the outcome of the family court proceedings. If your husband committed adultery, it’s important that you know how his infidelity can impact your rights and interests during the divorce. Our divorce lawyer in Greenville at Turner Family Law takes a look at this emotionally and legally complex issue.
Adultery Can Speed Up the Divorce
As a general rule, husbands and wives must be separated for one year before they can be divorced. But one of your rights, if your husband commits adultery, is that this requirement gets waived. You will no longer have to satisfy the one-year separation period.
That’s because adultery qualifies as fault, and you can therefore seek a fault-based divorce from your husband right away. In some cases, it can take as little as 90 days to terminate the marriage.
No Need to Live Separately and Apart
Most divorcing spouses must live apart from each other during their one-year separation period.
That means living in two different residences, not merely two separate parts of the same dwelling.
But since the separation requirement disappears with infidelity, so does the obligation to live under separate roofs. If your husband was unfaithful, you can file for divorce even if the two of you are still living together.
No Duty to Pay Alimony and More Favorable Property and Debt Division
Alimony (spousal support) and equitable distribution (division of marital assets and debts) are two major issues that have to be resolved in a divorce. Infidelity significantly affects the outcome of these matters, and it does so in the wife’s favor.
First, the wife would not have to pay alimony to the husband. That’s because, under South Carolina law, a cheating spouse is not entitled to receive spousal support of any kind. It doesn’t matter where the wife resides in the state or whether the divorce is tried in court.
As for equitable distribution, a judge may decide to split property and debts in the wife’s favor.
More specifically, this means assigning the wife more of the marital assets and less of the marital debt. Marital misconduct, including that which “contributed to the breakup of the marriage,” is specifically listed in the divorce statutes as an equitable distribution factor the judge must consider.
There are potential exceptions to the above rule. If you sign a property or marital settlement agreement that requires you to pay alimony and divide marital assets and debts a certain way, and then you discover your husband cheated, you could be stuck with these obligations. The same is true if you learn of the infidelity after a court order is entered concerning alimony and equitable distribution.
It is therefore critical for you to speak with a skilled divorce attorney immediately if you believe your husband has committed adultery. You should also talk with a lawyer if you’ve discovered your husband’s infidelity after signing a property or marital settlement agreement or after a court has entered an order regarding alimony or equitable distribution. You may still have legal options at that point.
Infidelity Can Affect Child Custody
The moral considerations of adultery are less important in our modern legal system, at least as between spouses. But when children are exposed to a husband’s cheating, it’s a different matter. With respect to child custody and visitation, a judge will take into account that the husband committed adultery if the behavior affected the child’s welfare or best interests.
In one case, for example, the father permitted his girlfriend to visit his home while the children were present. He did so despite the fact that the older child was troubled by this arrangement.
Moreover, the father allowed his girlfriend to stay at his house past the children’s bedtime. Even though the children were doing well in school and were healthy while they were in the father’s care, the court properly considered their best interests in awarding primary legal custody to the mother.
Unfaithful Husbands Can Be Required to Pay Lawyer and Court Fees
As a general matter, divorce judges can require one spouse to pay the other’s attorney fees, expert witness fees, and related court costs. If your husband committed adultery, the judge is likely to assess the husband with these expenses. It is at least less probable that you would be charged with paying these.
Contact Us to Learn More About Your Rights If Your Husband Commits Adultery
Remember, a mere belief that your husband has cheated on you will not be enough for family court. However, it should prompt you to speak with a knowledgeable Greenville, SC divorce lawyer.
Attorney J. Michael Turner, Jr. and his firm Turner Family Law are ready to assist you. We can discuss the circumstances involved in your case, examine the evidence of cheating you have obtained so far, and explain what we can do to further develop proof of infidelity. We can also answer any questions you have about the impact of your husband’s adultery on your divorce.
Connect with our office online today to get started.