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By Jan Grossman, Esq.
“I caught my spouse cheating. My spouse even admitted it! It’s all over Facebook! That means I get the kids, the house, the retirement, all the money and alimony in a divorce, right?”
Er, no, not even close.
These days, with social media, looser morals, more opportunities, marital infidelity is major part of our divorce practice. It is natural to feel that if your spouse was “wrong,” the law will “punish” them in divorce and custody litigation because they’ve been “bad.” In reality, however, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Divorce and Custody laws aren’t necessarily about “punishing” anybody. Pennsylvania law leaves moral punishment to God, karma, your family, your friends and that nosy neighbor down the street. Let’s look at specific examples:
1. DIVISION OF MARITAL PROPERTY. Cheating has absolutely nothing to do with how much marital property each spouse gets. Amazingly, a spouse can have multiple affairs, simultaneously (if they have the stamina) and they will end up with the same amount of property as if they had been totally faithful. That’s because our divorce law is all about financial fairness not about retribution.
2. ALIMONY. Cheating has minimal effect on whether a cheating spouse gets alimony after the divorce. There are seventeen factors that the Court must consider in deciding whether a spouse gets alimony, marital misconduct is just one of those factors. Likely as not, cheating, no matter how blatant or frequent prior to separation, will not stop the cheating spouse from enjoying the full alimony benefits after divorce. But alimony will stop immediately and permanently if the person receiving alimony lives with significant other or remarries.
3. CHILD CUSTODY. Believe it or not, one spouse cheating on another rarely affects a court’s child custody decision. Pennsylvania Judges must consider 16 factors in determining child placement, but adultery in not one of them. However, there are elements of the cheating relationship that could influence a judge’s child custody decision such as open sexual contact with the new significant other in front of a child, forcing the new boyfriend/girlfriend on to the child without thoughtful and proper psychological preparation for the child, the new boyfriend/girlfriend openly criticizing the faithful parent, the cheating spouse neglecting the children to spend time with their new significant other, and/or whether the new significant other has a criminal or child abuse record and/or significant addiction history.
4. CHILD SUPPORT. If a cheating spouse has custody of the children, even if they are openly residing with their new significant other, they will still get full child support. Pennsylvania law considers the children’s best interest and needs and will not “punish” the children for the sins of their cheating parent.
5. ALIMONY BEFORE THE DIVORCE. If you are in a divorce and your Ex moves in with their significant other, they are still qualified to receive alimony before the divorce if you have significantly more income than they do.
6. SPOUSAL SUPPORT. Finally, a victory for Biblical morality! Before a divorce is filed. Spousal Support can be denied to anyone who committed “marital misconduct” or is living with their new significant other.
At WE CARE LEGAL SERVICE, 855-LAW-FAMILY. WE ARE HEAR 24/7 to answer your divorce, custody, support, adoption and grandparent’s rights questions. We are available 7 days a week for an immediate and no-cost consultation in our Levittown or Doylestown Offices. If you think the adultery laws are unfair, we may sympathize with you, but our job is to help you cope with the laws, as written, and to assist you in making sound legal decisions for your future.