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Marital Misconduct & Divorce: What Does Cheating Get You?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2013 | Divorce


This summer the tabloids saw no shortage of cheating scandals to headline their front pages. From Anthony Weiner’s second “sexting” scandal to Simon Cowell’s pregnant married lover, the nation has watched marriage after marriage fall victim to various infidelities. Especially when speaking about Anthony Weiner, whose wife, Huma Abedin is dealing with her second go round of public humiliation at the hands of her philandering husband, people are quick to question why the unoffending spouse doesn’t file for divorce and take the cheater “for all that they have.” While that is a great idea in theory, in most states, like Pennsylvania, the law simply does not work that way.

In Pennsylvania, which has been a no-fault state since 1980, courts do not consider marital misconduct, such as adultery, when dividing property pursuant to a divorce, unless the misconduct has a negative financial impact on the parties’ marital estate. For example, if the offending spouse emptied the marital bank account or otherwise spent large amounts of money entertaining a lover, a court may consider those sums of money an advance on equitable distribution to the spouse who spent the money. In other words, the court could reduce the percentage the offending spouse receives from equitable distribution to compensate for the unauthorized dissipation of the marital estate. Although the divorce code specifically bans consideration of marital misconduct in dividing the marital estate, this kind of compensatory distribution seeks to remedy the economic misconduct of one spouse, rather than punishing that spouse for his or her indiscretions.

The only other time marital misconduct may come into play during a Pennsylvania divorce proceeding is when the court is considering an award of alimony. The Pennsylvania divorce code provides that when a court is determining whether alimony is necessary and in determining the nature, amount, duration and manner of payment of alimony, the marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage is one factor that the court shall consider. However, the marital misconduct of either of the parties from the date of final separation shall not be considered by the court in its alimony determination, unless the misconduct is abuse.

So does this mean that if you cheated on your spouse, you are barred from receiving alimony? The short answer: no. Also, does this mean if your spouse cheated on you that you will get an inflated amount of alimony? Also, no. While marital misconduct is a factor that the court will consider in determining an alimony award, it is only one factor out of seventeen. Examples of other factors the court will consider are the earnings and earning capacities of the parties, the duration of the marriage, sources of income for both parties, and the relative needs of the parties. So while marital misconduct, such as adultery, can be considered when making an alimony determination, it is certainly not the end-all-be-all as far as an alimony award goes.

If you have experienced any kind of marital misconduct in your marriage and you are wondering what impact it may have on your divorce proceedings, call the experienced attorneys at McMorrow Law, LLC for a free consultation today at 724-940-0100.