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Adultery and Other Marital Misconduct

Posted by attorney Donald Criscuolo
Filed under: Family law

Most people are surprised to learn that if one spouse is cheating the divorce judge may not even permit that evidence during the trial. Florida is a “no fault" divorce state. There is no need to prove that a spouse has cheated to be entitled to a divorce. Judges are not interested to hear who was a good or bad husband/wife. Our laws treat the break-up of a marriage much like dissolution of a business partnership. The property and debts are fairly divided, other obligations allocated between the parties and they go their separate ways.

There are exceptions. If there is a financial impact to the marriage because of the cheating the court could allow that evidence so it can determine how to compensate the other spouse. For example, if one spouse spent money supporting a girlfriend/boyfriend, paid rent, purchased cars and/or other gifts, paid for expensive vacations and the like the court will take that into account. Sometimes that type of conduct has gone on for years undetected and once discovered can have a significant impact on the case. While the divorce case is progressing the discovery of such matters can be very emotionally upsetting. Frequently the judge is asked to rule on whether or not certain questions can be asked and other avenues of inquiry pursued. Sometimes the third parties involved even retain their own lawyers.

There are other forms of marital misconduct. For example, a spouse could have a long term plan to divorce in the future and over the course of several years conspire with family members by transferring money or other assets to them to hold until the divorce is over. This is called dissipating marital assets. Assets may also be dissipated by excessive gambling or substance abuse. If that is discovered during the divorce case, in extreme cases, those third-parties can be named as parties in the divorce and may have to answer to the judge. This sometimes happens with business partners, who think they are doing their partner a favor, help their partner cheat their spouse. This raises the level of complexity of the case making it all the more important to be vigorously represented by a proficient expert in family law.

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