When seeking a divorce in New Jersey you must provide the state with a legally acceptable reason to terminate your marriage. These reasons are called grounds for divorce. New Jersey recognizes both at-fault and no-fault grounds for divorce and civil union dissolution. Adultery is an at-fault ground.
Alleging Adultery in Divorce
The divorce process has changed since the 1980’s. Up until that time period, the spouse seeking a divorce had to prove marital fault. Once this was accomplished, the court determined alimony and property distribution and issued the applicable orders. Today, courts view divorce cases in contractual terms and the termination of a marriage is analyzed as more of a business deal than a personal relationship. Though adultery is still an accepted ground for divorce, its impact on court decisions is minimal at best.
The Impact of Adultery on Alimony and Property Division
In the past, when New Jersey couples were required to prove fault to obtain a divorce, adultery was a common claim. However, with the inclusion of no-fault grounds in New Jersey divorce law, most couples now choose to offer a no-fault ground as the basis for their dissolution. Now, when a spouse alleges adultery as the legal reason for termination of a marriage, the court only considers this misconduct if it negatively affected the couple’s financial circumstances. This may be a factor if the adulterous spouse depleted a large amount of the couple’s marital assets to spend money on his/her lover. The same theory holds for the division of property. If the cheating spouse misused a large portion of marital funds on his/her extramarital lover, the judge may award more assets to the innocent spouse to compensate for this iniquity.
The Impact of Adultery on Child Custody
The act of infidelity by a spouse does not directly affect child custody in New Jersey. Though extenuating circumstances may be a factor. For example, if the unfaithful spouse’s paramour is dangerous or otherwise affects the child in a negative manner, this becomes an important criterion. If this lover is an objectionable person, such as a sex offender or alcoholic, custody and visitation may be affected when the spouse allows him/her to spend time at home around the child.
Legal Counsel for Adultery and Divorce
If you are considering a divorce and need information about adultery claims or other grounds, the sensitive NJ Divorce attorneys of Castronovo & McKinney are qualified to offer you knowledgeable legal representation. Contact our office today to schedule a confidential consultation.