Adultery in Arizona: Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

Learn whether an extramarital affair can affect spousal maintenance—or any other issue in an Arizona divorce.

By , Legal Editor

    When an extramarital affair is at least part of the reason your marriage is ending, you might assume it will have an impact on your divorce. Of course, the resulting anger and mistrust could affect whether you and your spouse can cooperate enough to reach a marital settlement agreement, or whether you'll end up with an expensive and drawn-out contested divorce. But you should know that if your case does end up in an Arizona court, adultery probably won't play a role in the judge's decisions.

    Can Adultery Play a Role in Arizona Divorces?

    It shouldn't be a surprise that adultery is high on the list of causes of divorce. But there's a difference between the personal motivations behind ending a marriage and the legally accepted reasons ("grounds") for divorce. It used to be that you couldn't get a divorce unless you could prove that your spouse was guilty of certain kinds of wrongdoing—like adultery, abandonment, or physical abuse. But many states have gotten rid of fault-based divorce, instead allowing spouses to file for divorce based on incompatibility or similar grounds.

    For the vast majority of couples, Arizona is a no-fault divorce state. That means that you can't claim—and won't have to prove—that your spouse was guilty of adultery or any other misbehavior. You'll simply declare that your marriage is broken beyond repair. The only exception is if you're one of the few couples with a "covenant marriage" in Arizona, which has additional requirements before marrying and does allow fault-based grounds (including adultery) for divorce. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 25-312(A), 25-903 (2023).)

    Can Adultery Affect Spousal Maintenance Awards in Arizona?

    In all cases when spouses filed for a dissolution of marriage or a legal separation on or after September 24, 2022, judges will follow Arizona's spousal maintenance guidelines to decide whether a spouse is entitled to receive alimony—and, if so, to calculate how much the payments will be and how long they'll last. And for couples who got divorced before the guidelines took effect, judges will decide what's fair based on the circumstances.

    But regardless of when the divorce started, Arizona law clearly states that judges may not consider "marital misconduct" in their decisions about spousal maintenance. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-319 (2023).)

    Can Adultery Affect Property Division, Child Custody, or Support in Arizona?

    When it comes to other issues in an Arizona divorce—such as what happens to the couple's property and children—adultery usually won't play a role in the judge's decisions.

    Adultery and Property Division in Arizona

    Arizona judges must divide divorcing spouses' property (including community property) equitably—meaning fairly, not necessarily equally. As with spousal maintenance, Arizona law specifically bars consideration of marital misconduct in property decisions.

    At the same time, however, the law does allow judges to consider a spouse's "excessive or abnormal expenditures" of community property. So if a spouse wasted a significant amount of the couple's money on an affair—such as for lavish gifts or expensive hotel stays—the judge might award the other spouse a greater share of the remaining community property to make up for the loss. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-318 (2023).)

    Adultery and Child Custody in Arizona

    As in all states, Arizona judges must base their decisions about child custody on what's in the children's best interests, after considering all of the circumstances that are relevant to the kids' physical and emotional well-being. Most of the time, a parent's extramarital affair won't directly harm the child.

    Still, it's possible that some extreme behavior related to an affair could harm the parent-child relationship, such as when the adulterous parent's new partner poses a danger to the child. Also, the "innocent" spouse's response to the adultery could play a role. When making custody decisions, Arizona judges must consider which parent is more likely to allow frequent and meaningful contact between the child and the other parent. So it's never a good idea to restrict access to the child as punishment for your spouse's affair. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-403 (2023).

    Adultery and Child Support in Arizona

    In the vast majority of cases, a parent's adultery won't have any effect on child support in Arizona. But the calculations under the state's child support guidelines do allow an adjustment for the costs of shared parenting time. So in those few instances when a judge has limited parenting time because of behavior related to an extramarital affair, that would be reflected in the child support calculation. (Ariz. Child Support Guidelines, § V (2023).)