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. If you're the spouse who discovered the other's affair, you may feel hurt, and even angry. If you've decided to pursue a divorce, it's important to keep a level head, so you can make the best decisions for your future.
In some states, adultery can affect how the court divides property or whether the cheating spouse can receive alimony. This article explains how infidelity can affect an Oklahoma divorce proceeding and whether it impacts 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.
Adultery is a felony in Oklahoma, punishable by up to 5 years in prison or up to a $500 fine. (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 21-872.) Although adultery is a crime in Oklahoma, it may not impact your divorce the way you think it will.
Oklahoma changed from a "fault" to a "no-fault" divorce state in 1975. If you lived in Oklahoma before 1975, when you asked for a divorce, the court required you to provide allegations of your spouse's marital misconduct, like adultery or cruel treatment. Since 1975, however, divorcing spouses can ask the court for a divorce using fault grounds or no-fault grounds, based on marital incompatibility (inability to get along).
Fault divorces can be expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, it's not enough to accuse your spouse of misconduct. Instead, you'll need to prove your allegations to the court with physical evidence or witness testimony. If you'd like to proceed with a fault divorce, you can use any of the following grounds (legal reasons):
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 a spouse pays 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. (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 43, § 43-121 (B).)
When deciding whether to award alimony from one spouse to the other, the only factors an Oklahoma court considers are the recipient spouse's needs for financial support and the other spouse's ability to pay alimony. The court must award alimony that is "just and equitable" to both spouses.
After a court awards alimony, either spouse can ask the court to modify it, but only 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; the court determines each alimony award 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 financial support in the form of 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.
Judges in Oklahoma determine child support using specific state guidelines that do not include marital misconduct. Instead, the court will evaluate each parent's income, medical costs, and childcare expenses. (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 43, § 43-118.) The judge will also consider the number of children receiving support and whether either parent supports biological children outside of the marriage. (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 43, § 43-118C.)
Similarly, courts in Oklahoma don't consider adultery when deciding custody and visitation during a divorce, unless the parent's affair affects that parent's parenting abilities or negatively affects the children. For example, if a spouse abandoned the couple's children to pursue an affair, the court may consider the circumstance of the adultery when deciding custody and visitation.
However, suppose a parent is guilty of adultery, but the affair doesn't endanger the children. In that case, the court will presume that it's best for the children for the parents to share parenting responsibility and custody (as long as the parents agree.) (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 43, § 43-110.1.) If you and your spouse disagree on custody, the judge will conduct a custody evaluation to determine a custody arrangement in the child's best interest. (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 43, § 43-112.)
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.