Marriages end for many reasons, including adultery, and Ohio allows spouses to use adultery as the reason for their divorce. Ohio courts may consider the adulterous spouse’s affair when deciding whether to grant a divorce and award alimony, but adultery generally does not affect a court’s child custody and child support decisions.
Ohio recognizes both no-fault and fault grounds upon which a court can base a divorce. Adultery is one of the fault grounds, so a spouse can file for divorce based on the other spouse’s adultery. However, the spouse who files for divorce on adultery grounds, or any other fault grounds, will be expected to prove her spouse’s misconduct. Proof can come through testimony of witnesses to the adulterous affair, documents, photographs or other evidence.
Ohio courts award custody of children based on the best interests of each child according to factors listed in Ohio law. These factors don't include a parent’s faithfulness to his spouse. Instead, they include items like the wishes of the child’s parents, wishes of the child, child’s adjustment to his home and community, mental and physical health of parents and child, and whether either parent has been convicted of a crime. Though these factors do not directly include adultery, a parent’s adulterous behavior may have an impact on one or more of these factors and thereby influence the court's custody decision. For example, a parent’s adultery could cause his child to tell the court she doesn’t want to live with that parent. Or, a parent may have involved his child in the affair by bringing his mistress around the child or asking the child to lie for him, causing the court to question the parent's judgment and ability to provide a healthy home environment for the child.
Ohio courts determine child support based on a formula that allocates a child’s expenses between both parents according to each parent's share of the parents' total combined income. For example, if the noncustodial parent earns 60 percent of the combined parental income, he is expected to pay 60 percent of the established child support amount. This formula does not consider a parent’s conduct, so a parent’s adultery is unlikely to affect child support payments. While a court can deviate from Ohio's child support formula, deviations are typically made for financial reasons and not because of parental conduct.
Ohio courts award alimony, called spousal support, by evaluating several factors set forth in its statutes instead of a rigid formula. Courts are not required to consider a spouse’s misconduct, such as adultery, since misconduct is not one of the factors. However, Ohio law permits courts to consider any factor they find relevant, so a court may consider adultery when making a spousal support award if it finds the misconduct relevant based on the circumstances.