In the past, New Jersey was a “fault” state, which meant a petitioning spouse had to claim the other spouse engaged in some form of misconduct or bad behavior, such as adultery or abandonment, to explain the breakdown of the marriage. Incidentally, adultery was commonly used as a fault ground and courts considered it when awarding the wronged spouse alimony, making child custody decisions, or dividing marital property. This, however, is no longer the case. Every state now offers some form of no-fault divorce option and courts almost never factor infidelity into a divorce settlement, except in specific circumstances.
Nowadays, the most common no-fault divorce ground is “irreconcilable differences,” which essentially means that two spouses can no longer get along. Neither spouse has to explain why the marriage has broken down. One spouse merely needs to state that the marriage has been experiencing significant problems for at least 6 months and there is no hope for future reconciliation.
New Jersey also allows spouses to opt for what is known as the no-fault ground of “separation,” which has existed longer than irreconcilable differences. This option requires spouses to have been separated for a minimum of 18 consecutive months prior to filing for divorce.
Adultery and Alimony
There are some states that still consider marital fault when awarding alimony, including the state of New Jersey, but this is a rarity and adultery is typically never among the fault grounds considered. Usually, more egregious acts such as aggravated assault or attempted murder are considered, especially when those acts involve the other spouse or a member of his or her family. The limited circumstances under which adultery might be considered in a divorce is if the cheating spouse’s behavior negatively impacted a couple’s economic situation.
For example, if a cheating spouse spent large sums of money on his or her paramour, this would affect alimony. The reason, of course, would not be the adulterous behavior itself, but rather the irresponsible financial behavior that ate into the married couple’s savings, unbeknownst to the innocent spouse.
Adultery and Property Division
Likewise, when a judge divides marital property in New Jersey, infidelity is not a factor in the decision-making process, unless the cheating spouse spent a chunk of marital assets on the extramarital affair. In such cases, the innocent spouse might receive more assets to make up for the losses associated with the affair.
It is also possible for the court to consider adultery as part of a larger behavioral pattern, which a judge might feel is wrong to ignore.
Adultery and Child Custody
Generally, adultery does not impact child custody in New Jersey. However, if the cheating spouse exposes the children to someone who might negatively affect the children or poses a danger or risk to their safety, it can influence the court’s decision regarding custody. For example, if the cheating spouse’s paramour is an alcoholic or drug addict, a sex offender, or has a criminal history and spends time around the children, this might affect whether or not that parent receives custody or visitation rights. Again, the focus is not the affair, but rather the fact that the cheating spouse potentially risked the well-being of his or her children.
Morris County Divorce Lawyer
Divorce can be a difficult experience to endure, especially when the events leading up to it have sparked a vast amount of anger and resentment. At O’Sullivan Law Group, we understand that our clients require dependable advice, relentless advocacy, and intelligent guidance. Our New Jersey legal team recognizes the urgency of these types of legal matters and always work toward building relationships with our clients that inspire trust and confidence, so they feel supported during this great time of need.
Regardless if you have been served divorce papers, are simply considering it, or are already in the process of a complex divorce, the divorce lawyers at O’Sullivan Law Group can help you at any stage. We have served individuals and their families for decades and will utilize our knowledge of New Jersey family law to secure the best outcome possible for your case.
We have experience assisting in a wide range of divorce matters including high-profile divorces, child custody, domestic violence, military divorces, mediation, contested and uncontested divorce, equitable property division, parental alienation, relocation, and more. There is no reason for you to have to go through this stressful time alone.
To discuss your divorce matter confidentially and get started on your case today, contact our firm at (973) 947-8699 for a free consultation.