While adultery can destroy a marriage, it typically doesn’t impact how property will be split during a divorce. In other words, a court usually isn’t going to give the betrayed spouse a bigger share of the marital property just to punish the cheater for his or her indiscretions.
But a recent case from Virginia shows that sometimes it will.
In that case, a couple who both came from modest backgrounds married in 1983 and built a successful poultry business. The wife also made some money on the side managing a high-school cafeteria, a job she planned to retire from soon.
At some point, the wife fell ill. Meanwhile, in 2015, the husband started having an affair, which he continued throughout his wife’s illness, refusing to break it off when his wife found out.
The husband also stopped actively operating the poultry business at a time when his wife was in no condition to run it herself. Still, when the couple got divorced, they had a house free of debt, a business that was free of debt and almost $500,000 in the bank.
Unable to agree on a property division, the couple proceeded to trial, where the husband assumed the judge would order the customary 50/50 split.
But the judge ordered a 60/40 split in favor of the wife instead.
According to the judge, the husband’s “egregious” adultery caused him to neglect the marriage, the home and especially the business. Reasoning that the husband abandoned the business as he was abandoning the marriage, the judge found that his adultery had a “direct adverse economic effect” on the poultry operation. This justified reducing his share of the marital estate.
This, of course, is just one case from Virginia. Results may vary from state to state and are also highly dependent on the facts of the individual case. So if you suspect that your own spouse’s infidelity may have impacted your family’s economic situation, talk to a family lawyer to find out what rights you might have in your state.