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Do You Have to Pay Alimony if Your Spouse Cheats?

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Two of the biggest causes of divorce are adultery and financial problems. Because adultery is so frowned upon in our society, it’s understandable why spouses would wonder if infidelity could bar a cheating spouse from spousal support, otherwise known as “alimony” in some states.

If your marriage has unraveled because someone cheated, does that mean the innocent spouse can use the affair against the other spouse to avoid paying alimony? In a word, “no” and we’ll explain why.

California is a no-fault divorce state

In the United States, we have what are called “no-fault” divorce states and “mixed states,” which allow spouses to file for divorce on fault or no-fault grounds. In mixed states, one of the common fault-based grounds for divorce is in fact adultery.

California is strictly a no-fault divorce state. California family court judges are not generally interested in hearing that a spouse cheated, whether it was a one-night-stand or a full-blown affair.

Marital misconduct can still impact the divorce case

In other words, California judges are not usually concerned about marital misconduct for the purposes of determining alimony. There is one exception, however, and it has to do with domestic violence.

If the spouse seeking support has committed domestic violence against the higher-earning spouse or a member of the household and this can be proven, the finding of domestic violence can bar a lower-earning spouse from receiving alimony.

shutterstock_225669484.2).1)[1]Wasting marital assets could affect spousal support

There is another issue the judge could take into account, which is wasting marital assets or “wasteful dissipation of marital assets.” If the cheating spouse, whether it was the higher-earning spouse or the supported spouse, wasted marital funds on a paramour, that can affect property division or spousal support, or both.

For example, if a cheating husband took his girlfriend on a lavish vacation behind his wife’s back and used marital funds, the judge will frown upon it and it can certainly have a negative impact on the divorce settlement.

On the other hand, if the husband quietly visited with his girlfriend at her apartment and never took her out, since marital funds were not wasted, the affair would not likely impact the divorce settlement.

Next: If I Get Joint Custody, Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support?

Have questions about adultery, spousal support, or divorce? Contact Cage & Miles, LLP to meet with an experienced San Diego family law attorney.

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