One of the hardest questions we get from individuals divorcing in Minnesota involves adultery and divorce. Extramarital affairs and infidelity may come up during a divorce.
Adultery is a sensitive topic to discuss. It’s a very personal issue, with layers of emotions on both sides. Typically, individuals want to know what the law says about cheating and how it’s going to impact their divorce. This article focuses on both, the legal and the emotional impact of adultery in a Minnesota divorce.
Minnesota – a “No-Fault” Divorce State
Minnesota is known as a no-fault state when it comes to divorce. That means, neither spouse needs to prove that the other spouse is “at fault” for the divorce, in order to be able to get a divorce in Minnesota. However, the flip side of the no-fault law (not needing to prove your spouse did anything wrong) is that, the fault of either spouse (such as, an affair) in the breakup of a marriage is not to be considered in court when deciding child support, division of property, alimony (known as spousal maintenance, in Minnesota), or any other issue for that matter.
Legal Implications of Adultery in Minnesota
Thus, according to Minnesota law an extramarital affair should not impact a divorce case. However, let’s look at five important divorce issues (Custody, Child Support, Spousal Maintenance, Property Division, and Debt) to examine adultery’s impact.
Child Custody in Divorce & Adultery
Adultery should have no impact on child custody decisions, with one possible exception…
–> If the spouse who committed adultery exposed the child to it in some way during the marriage, there could be an argument that it would be against the child’s best interests to spend more time with that parent over the other parent. This may be particularly true if the child is young and that parent is still with the new partner.
Child Support in Divorce & Adultery
Adultery does not impact child support amounts in Minnesota, because child support in Minnesota is calculated using a formula that is based on two things:
a. The Income of Both Parents, and
b. The Parenting Time of Both Parents.
Alimony in Divorce & Adultery
Adultery should have nothing to do with alimony determinations, because alimony (spousal maintenance) is based on one spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay.
–> Although it’s uncommon, it is possible that the infidelity could influence a sympathetic judge when making a spousal maintenance (alimony) determination in a court proceeding.
Learn more about: Will I Pay or Receive Alimony in my Divorce?
Property Division in Divorce & Adultery
Adultery also does not impact marital property division, because in Minnesota, the courts are required to follow the “fair and equitable” property division standard in any divorce proceeding.
Learn more about: What Property you’re Entitled to in your Minnesota Divorce.
Debt Division in Divorce & Adultery
Similar to the division of property, adultery would not impact the manner in which the court divides up the division of debt during your divorce.
Up to this point, we’ve looked at the legal ramifications of adultery in a Minnesota divorce. Although Minnesota law disregards adultery, most divorcing couples do not. Infidelity plays a significant role in how the divorcing couple feel towards one another. Therefore, the divorce process is often influenced by the emotional impact of adultery.
Emotional Impact of Adultery in Divorce
Typically, the spouse who was cheated on feels betrayed and incredibly resentful towards the other spouse. In addition, the fact that there are no significant legal repercussions for the individual who had the affair can seem unfair. It’s not uncommon for the individual who didn’t have the affair, to want the children and/or want to be awarded more alimony and/or marital property to “compensate” for the pain that the other spouse caused him/her. In essence, adultery can make the cheated on spouse feel “owed” in terms of other issues involved in the divorce.
On the other side, the individual who had the affair, often views the infidelity as a symptom of an already broken marriage, rather than the cause of the divorce. It’s not uncommon for the spouse who cheated to feel that the other spouse stopped caring about him/her and that the sense of an “us” was lost a long time ago.
Typically, there’s a significant amount of distrust between a divorcing couple when adultery is involved. A lack of trust between the divorcing couple can make it more difficult to reach an agreement, and thus can prolong the divorce process. However, that’s not always the case.
For some individuals, adultery speeds up the divorce process. The infidelity is seen as a very blatant and concrete sign that the marriage is over and solidifies the couple’s belief that there isn’t anything that can be done to “fix” the marriage. The perceived lack of ambiguity strengthens the couple’s confidence in their decision to divorce and their motivation to do so quickly.
The above paragraphs are not meant to explain how either of the divorcing individuals will or should feel when it comes to the extramarital affair(s) and their divorce. As previously mentioned, adultery is a very personal issue and however an individual feels about the affair, is how s/he feels. Instead, the above paragraphs are meant to demonstrate that it would be erroneous to assume that adultery doesn’t impact a Minnesota divorce, simply because there are no direct legal ramifications.
Infidelity will influence the divorce process. How and to what extent, depends on each divorcing couple. The best case scenario involves both of the individuals acknowledging the distrust and identifying strategies to move forward. However, that can be a lot to ask. Especially since you don’t have control over the other individual’s behavior.
Therefore, when conflict and emotions are high, having a divorce attorney can provide emotional distance between you and the other spouse. Thus, enabling you to make sound and rational decisions during your divorce.
For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page. If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.