No Fault Divorce: Does Adultery Matter in a Florida divorce?
Adultery may affect division of property in a divorce, child custody, and more.
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Florida is a "no fault" divorce state. This means that either party may seek a divorce without proving any reason for it other than the spouses don't want to be married anymore. The spouse seeking a divorce simply needs to state that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." This rule relieves the court of the complicated duty of deciding who is at fault, and the parties to the marriage are spared having to talk about painful personal issues in court.
Effect of Adultery on Child Custody
However, if one spouse committed adultery, it might affect other elements of the divorce. For example, "moral fitness" is one of the factors the court considers in making custody decisions, so if one parent can prove that the other parent's adultery had or is reasonably likely to have an adverse impact on the child, the judge might limit that parent's custody or visitation.
Effect of Adultery on Property Division
Adultery may also affect the division of marital property and debts. Florida is an equitable distribution state, so there is a presumption that the marital assets and liabilities should be evenly divided. This presumption may, however, be overcome by proof that one spouse has intentionally dissipated or wasted marital assets. Gifts, trips, apartment rent, car payments, and dinners for a non-marital partner are all considered a waste of marital assets. The court may reduce the adulterer's share of martial assets to compensate the other spouse for this waste.
Effect of Adultery on Spousal Support (Alimony)
Florida laws specifically list adultery as a factor to be considered in determining the amount of alimony awarded, but courts have struggled to reconcile the consideration of adultery with the "no fault" concept. The bottom line is that judges will only increase a wronged spouse's alimony if the adulterous conduct somehow increases that spouse's monetary needs.
(See Florida Divorce and Family Law to find more information about Child Custody, Property Division and Alimony.)