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Does Cheating Matter?

Does cheating matter to the court when you are getting a divorce? The short answer is: usually not.

The court’s duty in getting you divorced is to (1) divide assets, (2) determine support, and (3) allocate parental rights and responsibilities. Usually, the fact that one or both spouses have had extramarital affairs does not affect any of those three things. There are some situations, however, where it may matter:

  • If your spouse has spent significant amounts of money on an affair, then this could constitute financial misconduct because he is lessening the marital estate on non-marital expenses. When the court divides assets, it could award you more of the assets to compensate for the financial misconduct.
  • If you are going to be receiving child support or spousal support, and are also receiving significant amounts of money from another significant other (a paramour), the fact that you are receiving that additional money could be a factor used against you to reduce your child support or spousal support.
  • Finally, if you introduce a new significant other before or during your divorce, this could impact how the court allocates parental rights and responsibilities.

While no two cases are the same, a few general rules of thumb regarding cheating is (1) don’t give money to a paramour, (2) don’t take money from a paramour, and (3) don’t introduce your children to a paramour.

“Adultery” is also a “grounds” for divorce. The Ohio Revised Code requires that spouse the filing a Complaint for Divorce should list all reasons, or “grounds”, for which a court may grant a divorce. R.C. §3105.1(A) provides several grounds on which a court may grant a divorce, which are:

  • Either party had a living spouse at the time of the marriage from which the divorce is sought;
  • Willful absence of the adverse party for one year;
  • Adultery;
  • Extreme Cruelty;
  • Fraudulent Contract;
  • Any gross neglect of duty;
  • Habitual drunkenness;
  • Imprisonment of the adverse party at the time of filing;
  • The parties have been living separate and apart, without interruption, for one year; and
  • Incompatibility, unless denied by either party.

It is a common misconception that the applicability of one or more of these grounds means you are entitled to more than you would otherwise be when filing for divorce. In reality, notwithstanding a few exceptions, a “grounds” for divorce is just that—a reason why the court could grant your divorce.