Unfortunately, adultery affects many marriages. One recent study found that one or both spouses admit to cheating in 41 percent of marriages - many of which often end in divorce. In some states, adultery can affect how property is divided, or whether the cheating spouse can receive alimony or not.
This article explains how infidelity can affect an Oklahoma divorce proceeding and whether it has an impact on alimony. If you have additional questions about how adultery affects alimony and property division in a divorce, you should speak with an Oklahoma family law attorney.
Oklahoma changed from a “fault” to “no-fault” divorce state in 1975. If you lived in Oklahoma prior to 1975, you had to ask a court to give you a divorce because of something your spouse did, like adultery or cruel treatment. Since 1975, however, courts simply grant divorces based on a couple's incompatibility (inability to get along).
Today, Oklahoma courts won’t even listen to evidence or testimony about a spouse’s misconduct during a divorce, unless it’s directly related to their finances, like when a spouse wastes the couple’s money on an affair, drugs or gambling. Oklahoma’s no-fault divorce system means adultery plays a very limited role in Oklahoma divorces.
When one spouse is financially dependent on the other during the marriage, an Oklahoma court may award that spouse alimony as part of the divorce. Courts often award alimony in divorces where a spouse has given up a career or earning potential to take care of the couple’s home or children.
Alimony can be in the form of property, either real property like a house or any other piece of personal property. Usually though, alimony is paid in cash. "Periodic alimony" refers to cash payments made in installments (most often monthly), while an alimony award that's paid all at once is called "lump-sum" alimony. Periodic alimony can be permanent, lasting until either spouse dies or the supported spouse gets remarried. Periodic alimony can also be temporary, lasting for a specific number of months or years.
When deciding whether to award alimony from one spouse to the other, the only factors an Oklahoma court considers are the needs of the spouse receiving alimony, and the ability of the other spouse to pay alimony.
After a court has awarded alimony, either spouse can ask the court to modify alimony if financial circumstances have changed. For example, if the supported spouse gets a job or a raise in income, the court may lower or end alimony payments. If the spouse paying alimony has an involuntary drop in income, the court may also lower or end alimony.
Oklahoma doesn’t use a formula to calculate alimony; each alimony award is determined on a case-by-case basis. You can find more details on alimony in Oklahoma by reading Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma divorces, adultery usually doesn’t affect alimony. Courts only consider adultery or other misconduct if it affects the paying spouse’s ability to pay, or the supported spouse’s need. For example, if a spouse only needs alimony because that spouse’s affair got the spouse fired, the court may choose not to award that spouse alimony. A court may also consider whether the emotional impact of infidelity in the marriage affected the supported spouse’s need for alimony.
It can be difficult to prove the connection between an affair and the need for alimony. If you believe you should be eligible for alimony because of your spouse’s adultery, you should contact an Oklahoma family law attorney.
In limited circumstances, courts in Oklahoma will consider adultery when dividing a couple’s property during a divorce. For example, if the cheating spouse spent a large amount of the couple’s money on an affair, the court may award the guilty spouse a smaller portion of the couple’s property or money.
In most other circumstances, the court won’t consider adultery or other misconduct when dividing property. For example, the court will not give a spouse a smaller portion of the couple’s estate just to punish that spouse for the affair.
Similarly, courts in Oklahoma don’t consider adultery when deciding custody and visitation during a divorce, unless the affair was conducted in a way that affects a spouse’s parenting abilities or negatively affects the children. For example, if a spouse abandoned the couple’s children in order to pursue an affair, the court may consider the adultery when deciding custody and visitation.
Speak with a family law attorney in your area if you have additional questions about alimony and adultery in Oklahoma.
To read the full text of the law on adultery and alimony in Oklahoma, see the Oklahoma Statutes Annotated Title 43, §121.