What Happens in a Divorce if Your Spouse Had an Affair?

Updated November 21, 2016

An affair used to be grounds to end a marriage and still is in covenant marriages. Every state in the United States allows no-fault divorce since 2010 but those in covenant marriages must provide grounds as stipulated by law in their jurisdiction. Adultery is considered grounds for divorce in all jurisdictions allowing covenant marriages. Even in states without covenant marriage, an affair by a spouse may also affect the financial settlement, child custody arrangements and may be used as leverage to gain advantage for the wronged spouse.

Covenant Marriage

A couple entering into a covenant marriage agree that they will not divorce except under very specific grounds. Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana all recognise covenant marriage and allow a spouse's affair to serve as grounds for divorce. The infidelity will need to be proven in court through evidence such as phone records or an admission by the spouse.

Divorce Waiting Period

All states allow no-fault divorce but each state has a differing waiting period before a final divorce decree is issued. In some states, a wronged spouse may request that the waiting period for final divorce be waived due to a spouse's affair. Evidence of the adultery may be required.

Financial Settlements

In some states a spouse's affair may have an impact on the amount of the financial settlement. The wrong spouse may receive more of the marital assets to compensate for the harm done by the affair. This practice is becoming less common as more states apply no-fault standards to financial settlements.

Child Custody

An affair by a spouse will probably not have an impact on child custody arrangement. The purpose of child custody is solely to ensure the welfare of the children. The exception to this circumstance would be a spouse having an affair with an unsafe partner who was convicted of sexual abuse, child abuse or neglect.

Military Divorce

Military personnel risk their careers by having an affair -- they can be court-martialed for adultery. However, the wronged spouse might be better served by using the information about the affair as a negotiating tool in the divorce settlement rather than reporting the indiscretion.

Criminal Charges

Adultery can lead to criminal charges in some states, although these crimes are rarely prosecuted. In Michigan, a spouse can receive a life sentence for having an affair. In Wisconsin, adultery is considered a Class I felony. Maryland takes a more reasonable stance on the matter with a fine of £6. Other states have different penalties or no penalties at all.

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About the Author

Monika Weise has been a writer of both fiction and nonfiction since 1988. Her diverse experience includes publishing fiction in "Secrets" magazine, writing plays for the Live Wires acting group and creating manuals for area businesses. Weise is working toward a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.