Does anyone care about adultery anymore?

Posted on Aug 13, 2013 by Katie Carter

Sometimes I wonder whether anyone even cares about adultery anymore. Sure, it matters to the spouse who has been cheated on, but, at least in the court system, adultery seems to be losing serious ground.

In the olden days, adultery was the only grounds for divorce. If there wasn’t adultery, you were stuck. These days, though, adultery is one of several different fault-based grounds, and there are also no-fault grounds, which are infinitely more popular. Today, to prove adultery, you need to provide “strict, satisfactory, and conclusive” proof that the adultery occurred, and even have a corroborating witness! That’s pretty difficult to do, unless you hire a private investigator to catch him in the act. Your private investigator may also be your corroborating witness, but, for many women, they are also prohibitively expensive.

Once you prove that your husband committed adultery (if you can prove it) what happens next? You divide the property. In Virginia, property is divided by “equitable distribution.” This means that the judge is allowed to consider the fault of the parties (and also the good things they’ve done during the marriage) when determining how to divide up the property between husband and wife. So, theoretically at least, the judge CAN use the adultery as a reason for doing something that divides property differently than 50/50. But will the judge do that? In my experience, probably not. In most cases, even when there has been fault on one side, judges don’t make property distributions that are very different than traditional 50/50.

The one thing that adultery does do is provide a bar against spousal support, if the party committing the adultery could have asked for spousal support in the first place and if the other party can prove that the adultery took place. The problem here is that, most of the time, the husband earns more than the wife, so he couldn’t have asked for spousal support anyway.

A lot of times, women seem to think that adultery is some sort of golden ticket to a more advantageous divorce. It’s really not. A final divorce granted on the grounds of adultery is a very rare thing, and a disproportionate award of the assets because of that adultery is even more rare. The best divorce is, in most cases, an uncontested, no fault divorce where you agree to something fairly close to 50/50 division of the assets, and avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars fighting over it in court.