California divorce: How infidelity can turn into alimony

Infidelity is a frequent reason for divorce, but rarely is it ever taken into consideration by the courts when the non-cheating spouse tries to get spousal support. In a no-fault divorce state like California, the courts are not interested in which side is to blame. However, spouses who wish to factor cheating into the divorce settlement may have better luck outside of court. For those who did not draft a pre- or postnuptial agreement with an infidelity clause, there are a couple other options to consider.

Sympathy can be an effective tool for negotiating a higher alimony payment. For example, if the cheating spouse behaves in a poor or abusive manner toward the non-cheating spouse, that can be brought up in the proceedings. The behavior typically must be beyond what is considered common decency, such as shirking family obligations, neglecting the children or flaunting the affair.

Infidelity often leaves a paper trail documenting the expenses that go into the affair. This can also be presented in divorce proceedings, but the non-cheating spouse must be very careful when collecting this evidence. Any evidence gathered by illegal means, such as hacking into the spouse's email or social media accounts, could result in criminal charges. Spouses who pursue this option may spend a lot of time and money conducting their investigations, so the result may not be worth the effort.

It is important for the non-cheating spouse to let a cool head prevail in proceedings like this. While infidelity and divorce can bring about strong emotions, feeling vengeful rarely helps the negotiation process. In California, individuals who seek spousal support may need advice on how to get the best possible outcome in the divorce proceedings. While a satisfactory divorce settlement will not lessen the sting of infidelity, it can help provide a sense of closure.

Source: cnbc.com, "Does Cheating Cost You in a Divorce?" Dec. 18, 2012

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