Adultery: Impact of Infidelity in a Minnesota Divorce

Adultery in Minnesota and its impact on divorce.
Adultery often signals the end of a marriage.

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 divorce state. In other words, neither spouse needs to prove that the other spouse is “at fault” in order to be able to get a divorce in Minnesota.  Instead, only an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” needs to be shown.

Also, the affair should not be considered in Court when deciding child support, division of property, alimony, or any other issue in the divorce.

Legal Implications of Adultery in Minnesota 

Thus, an extramarital affair should not impact a divorce case legally. 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 

Adultery should have no impact on child custody decisions, with one possible exception.  A spouse who committed adultery may expose the child to the new interest in some way during the marriage. 

In that event, there could be an argument that it’s against the child’s best interests to spend more time with that parent over the other parent as it could be confusing to the child. This may be particularly true if the child is young and that parent is still with the new partner.  Additionally, it may appear that the parent with a new significant other is not prioritizing the child’s needs.

Child Support

Adultery does not impact child support in Minnesota.  Instead, child support is calculated using a formula based primarily on two facts: The income of both parents and the parenting time of both parents.


Adultery should have nothing to do with alimony determinations. In this case, alimony is based on one spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay. 

Property Division

Adultery also does not impact marital property division.  In Minnesota, the courts are required to follow the “fair and equitable” property division standard in any divorce proceeding. 

Debt Division

Similar to the division of property, adultery does not typically impact the manner in which the court divides up the division of debt during your divorce.

However, if a spouse spent marital assets on the new interest, a judge may find that said spouse should reimburse the other for this expense.

Up to this point, we’ve looked at the legal ramifications of adultery in a Minnesota divorce. Although Minnesota law largely disregards adultery, most divorcing couples do not. Infidelity plays a significant role in how the divorcing couple feel towards one another. So, the emotional impact of adultery may still impact the divorce process.

Emotional Impact of Adultery in Divorce 

Typically, the spouse who was cheated on feels betrayed and incredibly resentful towards the other spouse. In addition, there are typically no significant legal repercussions for the individual who had the affair.  The “cheated on” spouse can reasonably perceive this as 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 or her. In essence, adultery can make the cheated on spouse feel “owed” in terms of other issues involved in the divorce.   If that spouse is not legally entitled to those things, it may set up legal conflict.

On the other side, the individual who had the affair often views the infidelity as a symptom of an already broken marriage.  It’s not uncommon for the spouse who cheated to feel that the other spouse stopped caring about him or her and that the sense of an “us” was lost a long time ago. It’s common for the cheating spouse to feel justified and blameless.

Typically, there’s a significant amount of distrust between a divorcing couple when adultery is involved. This lack of trust can make it more difficult to reach an agreement.  This can prolong the divorce process. 

On the other hand, for some adultery speeds up a divorce. The infidelity is seen as a very blatant and concrete sign that the marriage is over.  It solidifies the couple’s belief that there isn’t any way to “fix” the marriage. This can strengthen the couple’s confidence in their decision to divorce and their motivation to do so quickly.

Take home message

We don’t mean 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.  However an individual feels about the affair is how he or she feels.

Instead, we aim to demonstrate that it would be wrong to assume that adultery doesn’t impact a divorce simply because there are no obvious legal effects.

Indeed, infidelity may influence the divorce process. How and to what extent, depends on each divorcing couple. Ideally both spouses can get past it and move forward objectively. However, that can be a lot to ask. 

Along those lines, a divorce attorney can help provide that objectivity.  He or she can also be a buffer between spouses to help keep arguments from getting heated.  In this event, each divorcing spouse is better able to make sound and rational decisions.

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.