When a marriage ends, a sobering reality is often revealed: One of the spouses is in a better financial position than the other. And when the marriage is ending because of infidelity, the sacrifices that one spouse might have made so that the other could pursue a career or financial opportunity can be even more upsetting.
Alimony is designed to address financial inequalities that arise when couples divorce. In some states, a spouse's infidelity can affect any alimony a court might order. Here's what couples who are divorcing in Indiana need to know about how adultery might affect an alimony—known as "maintenance" in Indiana—award.
Alimony in Indiana is the money that one spouse (the paying spouse or "obligor") pays to the other (the supported spouse or "obligee") as part of the divorce proceedings. (Ind. Code Ann. § 31-15-7-1 (2021).) The goal of Indiana's alimony law is to make sure that both spouses are on a similar economic footing after a divorce and that the divorce doesn't enrich one spouse while impoverishing the other. (Ind. Code Ann. § 31-15-7-2 (2021).)
Indiana recognizes both "no-fault" and fault-based divorces. To proceed with a no-fault divorce, one spouse needs to claim only that that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Alternatively, a spouse could file a fault-based divorce when one of the spouses:
(Ind. Code Ann. § 31-15-2-3 (2021).)
Even though adultery is traditionally considered a form of marital misconduct, it is not recognized as a ground for divorce in Indiana. Therefore, judges in Indiana will not consider evidence or testimony about adultery when they are deciding whether to grant a divorce.
Even though Indiana judges don't consider adultery when ruling on a divorce, Indiana judges can consider marital misconduct like adultery when making decisions about alimony.
In 1993, the Indiana Supreme Court decided that any judge tasked with the responsibility of deciding alimony issues could consider marital misconduct. The only limitation is that judges can't apply the laws unfairly by discriminating based on a person's gender. (Bartrom v. Adjustment Bureau, Inc., 618 N.E.2d 1 (Ind. Sup. Ct. 1993).)
Beyond the question of whether adultery occurred, judges have a variety of facts and law to consider when deciding whether to award alimony, what kind of alimony to award, and the amount and duration of payment.
For more detailed information on how Indiana courts award alimony, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Indiana.
Indiana law specifically prohibits judges from considering either parent's marital misconduct when deciding a child support amount. Instead, the judge will evaluate each parent's financial resources and standard of living, along with the child's physical, mental, and educational needs. (Ind. Code Ann. § 31-16-6-1 (2021).)
When a judge evaluates custody and parenting time in divorce, the law requires the judge to enter a custody order that is in the child's best interest. The list of factors that Indiana judges must consider does not include either parent's marital misconduct. (Ind. Code Ann. § 31-17-2-8 (2021).) However, if the parent's adultery somehow put the child's safety or well-being at risk, the court could consider it in the custody hearings. For example, if the third party with whom the parent is cheating abused or threatened the child, it would likely impact the judge's final custody decision.
For self-help purposes, you can look at the Indiana Judicial Branch's Self-Service Legal Center and at the official court forms. You can also browse the Indiana Legal Services, Inc. site for resources and assistance geared to help low-income Indiana residents with legal problems. Finally, you can review the Indiana Code to read the laws for yourself.