Does Committing Adultery Make Any Difference in Divorce Court in Pennsylvania?

By Shannon Johnson

Discovering that your spouse has been unfaithful is often the end to a marriage. In Pennsylvania, when a spouse files for divorce on the grounds of adultery, it may have some effect on an award of alimony or the division of marital assets. To prove adultery in court, keep proof of your spouse's adulterous actions such as emails, photographs and phone records. This evidence helps establish adultery as a ground for divorce.

Adultery and Alimony

Alimony in Pennsylvania is fundamentally based on one of the party's reasonable financial need for it. Judges will contemplate 17 factors -- only one of which is adultery -- when deciding the amount and availability of alimony. Adultery has a minimal affect on an award of alimony when compared with the factors that center on financial considerations. Under Pennsylvania's clearly established law, alimony is geared to situations in which economic justice and the reasonable needs of the receiving party can be met only by awarding alimony.

Adultery and Equitable Distribution of Property

Under most circumstances, adultery has no effect on the distribution of marital assets. But if a spouse expends a significant amount of marital assets entertaining a paramour, there is a good chance the judge will treat those funds as an advance against marital property. For example, if one spouse buys a home or car for the extramarital partner, or takes expensive trips, the court will total the amount spent and reduce the other spouse's share of marital assets by that amount. Depending on the size of the amount spent on an extramarital affair, a spouse could potentially receive a zero share of the marital assets.

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Adultery and Legal Separation

Having an affair after you stop living with your spouse as man and wife is usually not considered to be marital misconduct, so it is important to clearly communicate when separation actually takes place. You may do this in writing or by email to your spouse stating your intent to separate.

Defenses to Adultery

Pennsylvania law sets out certain defenses to a charge of adultery. If you can prove one of these defenses, the court will not consider adultery as a ground for divorce. The four statutory defenses to adultery are: your spouse has also engaged in an adulterous relationship; your spouse forgave you after learning of the affair; your spouse encouraged you to take part in prostitution and profited from it; or your spouse encouraged you to keep company that was likely to lead to adultery. If you depend on one or more of these defenses, make sure to include it in your response to your spouse's petition for divorce.

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Divorce Law on Infidelity in Pennsylvania

References

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What Impact Does Adultery During Separation Have on Divorce in Georgia?

Georgia law allows you to file for divorce on fault or no-fault grounds. One of the available fault grounds is the adulterous activity of your spouse during the marriage. The impact of adultery by your spouse during periods of separation, however, depends on a number of other factors. Regardless of whether your spouse commits adultery, you always have the option of expediting the process by filing on a no-fault ground.

Florida Divorce Laws on Infidelity

No-fault divorce states, such as Florida, grant divorces on the premise that sometimes marriages just don’t work out. The spouse who wants to end the marriage doesn’t have to prove that her partner committed any wrongdoing. She only has to tell the court that the marriage can't be saved. However, if her spouse was unfaithful, and if she can prove his infidelity, Florida law allows judges to take it into consideration when deciding certain issues.

What If You Don't Admit to Adultery in a Divorce Case?

Deciding whether to admit to adultery during divorce proceedings is a personal decision, and one that ultimately, will not affect your ability to get a divorce. On the one hand, if you admit to adultery, you may speed up the divorce process, and you won't have to defend suspicious text messages or emails in court. On the other hand, state laws may favor the innocent spouse when it comes to the divorce settlement – meaning, that you may lose out on alimony or marital property, if you admit to having an affair.

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