Dealing With Spousal Cheating in Your Florida Divorce
Whether spousal cheating occurred in your marriage or not, it may or may not be allowed to become an issue in your divorce. California was the first state to pass no-fault legislation in 1970, while New York was the last state to pass laws for no-fault divorce in 2010. Florida is one of seventeen states which is considered a “true” no-fault state, offering no traditional grounds for divorce such as adultery, cruelty or abandonment. That being said, Florida does allow you to file for divorce if your spouse is mentally incompetent—and a doctor confirms that mental status or your spouse actually resides in a mental institution.
Repercussions for Spousal Cheating
Even though Florida is a no-fault state, you or your spouse may be required to answer in some way for misbehavior such as marital infidelity during the marriage. Divorce attorneys refer to this as marital misconduct, and, in some cases, it can have an impact on the outcome of the division of assets, spousal support and even an award of attorney fees to the “victim” of spousal cheating. While the state of Florida doesn’t require the filing spouse to prove fault in order to divorce, grounds may still factor into the divorce. You can request a limited divorce, claiming grounds of cruelty, desertion or voluntary separation. Adultery and any circumstances surrounding the adulterous behavior may be taken into account by the judge when deciding whether to award spousal support. In the end, each divorce is fact-specific and the judge may weigh marital misconduct, particularly economic misconduct.
Did the Spousal Infidelity Undermine the Marriage and Cause Economic Issues?
Spousal infidelity definitely falls under the category of marital misconduct, which is defined as behavior which has significantly undermined the marriage. It is important to know that your Florida judge may not permit evidence of cheating to be introduced, unless it is clear that cheating not only caused the breakdown of your marriage, but also could have contributed to dissipation of assets as well. In other words, if the spousal infidelity created financial problems for you, then evidence of the marital misconduct (cheating) could be allowed. Further, if a husband spent lavishly on his girlfriend, the wife could receive compensation for the dissipation of assets from the marital property.
In general, whenever a Florida court is wrestling with the terms of a divorce, and marital misconduct was a contributing factor, then the spousal infidelity may come into play. Other forms of marital misconduct which could potentially affect the divorce terms include domestic violence, cruel or abusive behavior or alcohol or drug addiction. In short, any time marital misconduct such as spousal cheating on the part of one spouse forces the other to take on extra burdens in the marriage (financial, child-rearing, working or other areas), then it can become a factor in the divorce.
Does Separation Matter When Spousal Cheating is Present?
The intention of awarding extra assets to one spouse as a result of infidelity is not meant to be punitive, rather it is meant to ensure both spouses are fairly compensated, since Florida is an equitable distribution state. Unfortunately, many spouses are under the erroneous belief that, if they are separated from their spouse, marital misconduct such as infidelity is not an issue. First, there are no specific laws which define legal separation in the state of Florida, therefore separations as such, are not recognized.
A court may, however establish financial support for children, and, in some cases award alimony while a couple is contemplating divorce. Marital assets remain marital assets during this time, therefore a spouse who spends marital assets on a girlfriend or boyfriend may have that money offset when the divorce details are hammered out. A spouse who was expecting alimony may not receive it if spousal cheating along with dissipation of assets was present. The spouse who is expected to pay alimony may well end up paying more if he or she engaged in spousal infidelity which impacted the marital assets.
What is Economic Misconduct?
The spouse who engages in economic misconduct has, in some way, misspent marital assets during the two years prior to the filing of the divorce. This could be done through: 1) dissipation of marital assets, 2) hiding or concealing marital assets, 3) diverting marital or community assets in order to engage in an extramarital affair, 4) diverting marital or community assets in order to pay for an addiction, 5) any type of excessive or abnormal spending, 6) destruction of marital property, 7) fraudulently selling or conveying marital property or 8) any other unfair conduct which prevents the court from making a fair division of marital assets.
Spousal Support and Spousal Infidelity
In particular, Florida law allows the court to consider spousal infidelity when deciding whether to award spousal support, and how much to award. The specific law states “the court may consider the adultery of either spouse, and the circumstances thereof in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded.” Of course other factors will also be taken into considerations such as: the income available to both parties, the financial resources of the spouse seeking spousal support, the earning capacity, educational history, vocational skills and employability of each spouse, the marital standard of living, the length of the marriage, the age and physical and emotional condition of each spouse, each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, tax consequences of the spousal support, and the responsibilities each spouse will have for minor children. Any financial detriment the non-cheating spouse can show due to spousal infidelity may increase the amount of spousal support that spouse will receive.
The Family Law Place Attorneys Can Help You through Your Divorce
If you believe adultery or economic misconduct was a factor during your marriage and this transgression had an impact on your shared marital assets, you should discuss these issues with your attorney from The Family Law Place. Our attorneys have spent many years helping people just like you, who are going through a challenging divorce. We will listen to your issues, offering trustworthy guidance on how claiming marital misconduct would be beneficial in your particular situation.