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How Adultery Affects Alimony in Pennsylvania Divorces

Posted By Cairns Law Offices || 21-Nov-2016

The fact that adultery affects thousands of marriages in the United States each year is nothing new. For most couples coping with adultery, the marriages do not survive. If your marriage has unraveled because one of you had a fling or a full-blown affair, you may be wondering if the affair would affect the innocent spouse's legal rights to alimony in the event of divorce.

Every state handles adultery differently. In California, for example, the judges are not concerned about one spouse having an affair and evidence of adultery would not affect a spouse's ability to obtain spousal support. Then in other states, evidence of an affair automatically forfeits a guilty spouse's right to alimony. So, it all depends on which state you live in.

For the purposes of this post, we are going to discuss what effect adultery has on a spouse's right to receive alimony or spousal support. If you have additional questions, we urge you to contact our divorce law firm for a free consultation.

Adultery Can Forfeit a Spouse's Right to Alimony

Alimony or spousal support is money that a higher-earning spouse pays to a lower-earning spouse for financial support during or after a divorce. Alimony is not automatic; it is awarded on an "as needed" basis so the lower-earning spouse can receive help while they become financially independent.

So, how does cheating affect alimony in Pennsylvania? If a spouse has "voluntary sexual intercourse" with someone other than their spouse and the adultery leads to a divorce, the adulterous spouse is not entitled to alimony, even if he or she has been financially dependent on their spouse for a long time.

However, if a husband or wife does not want their cheating spouse to receive alimony, they would have to convince the court that their spouse had an affair. In order to do this, they will have to provide convincing evidence.

An innocent spouse does not have to prove that actual sexual intercourse took place; convincing evidence, such as emails, social media messages, texts, photos, and videos may be enough to prove to a judge that a spouse cheated.

The innocent spouse must be able to prove that the affair caused the divorce. If the affair occurred years ago and the innocent spouse forgave the cheating spouse and they filed for divorce years afterward, the judge may not consider that the affair caused the divorce.

Lastly, the alleged innocent spouse must be in fact innocent. The innocent spouse could not have committed adultery themselves if they want to bar their spouse from receiving alimony.

Why avoid a fault-based divorce?

In Pennsylvania, people can file a fault-based divorce on the ground of adultery, but most people try to avoid filing a fault divorce, even in the case of adultery. Why? Because, fault-based divorces are far more expensive than no-fault divorces, plus the innocent spouse must prove that their husband or wife cheated on them, and that can get costly.

If your spouse had an affair, instead of filing a fault-based divorce and coming up with all of the extra court expenses and legal fees, a better option is gathering the evidence of the affair and getting your spouse to agree to waive the alimony that they would otherwise be entitled to – and you can do this through a far more affordable option, a no-fault divorce.

To discuss the advantages of a no-fault divorce, even in the case of adultery, contact Cairns Law Offices today for a free consultation!