Help! My soon-to-be ex gave me an STD!

Posted on Jun 15, 2022 by Katie Carter


It’s important to hire a Virginia family law attorney with whom you can be completely truthful in your conversations because, all too often, we touch on issues that are embarrassing or uncomfortable. Among those things, in some cases, is the fact that a husband can pass an STD/STI on to his partner.

This can happen in all sorts of ways. Sometimes, it’s an STD/STI that he had prior to the marriage. One that you may have known about beforehand, and taken reasonable steps to protect yourself from. One that, while you were in a long term, committed, monogamous relationship, didn’t seem like such a big deal. But, now that you’ve separated and/or divorced, you’re starting to look at things from a different angle – and now dating is extra tricky! Is your ex going to have a hold over you – and keep you from love and experiences that you’d prefer to have – indefinitely?

It can also happen during the marriage, and that’s probably what we see most often. Infidelity is tough in any set of circumstances, but it’s especially tough when it leaves you with lasting consequences. Some STDs/STIs are treatable with a round of antibiotics; others are longer lasting, and sometimes permanent.
Having to disclose an STD/STI to a new partner is new-level uncomfortable, right? I mean, dating was hard before you were married and divorced, but now you have all this extra baggage to deal with, and it’s just not fair. Will your future partners listen to you? Will they judge you? How on earth can you have this conversation, too, on top of all the other difficult conversations you’ll need to have?

Not only that, but there’s often a time after you’ve been tested but before you’ve gotten your results that you’re wondering whether your health condition could be even worse. Like, what if you were exposed to HIV/AIDS? If your partner has been unfaithful and you have no idea who his partner(s) were, you have no way of knowing what kind of exposures you might have had. It’s a harrowing experience, for sure.

As a general rule, I always tell my clients that, when they suspect infidelity (whether they know or only think they know), they should get tested.

There’s absolutely no benefit to you from being the ostrich who buries her head in the sand. Go to the doctor, have the conversation – however embarrassing you might feel that it is – and find out FOR SURE what you’re dealing with. Maybe it’s nothing, and then you’d be worrying for no reason. Maybe it’s minor and treatable, in which case you’ll deal with it and never have to disclose it to any other person if you’d prefer to put it all behind you. Even if it’s not nothing, even if it’s not curable, though, you’re going to need to take a proactive stance with respect to your sexual health.

I’m sorry to say it. I know it’s not fair. I know this isn’t what you envisioned after years of monogamy – on your part, at least. But there’s nothing to do but deal with it.

1. Talk to a doctor or other healthcare professional. Get tested. Ask questions. Seek treatment. Learn how to approach your situation – both now, and with future intimate partners.

Dealing with it can look very different, depending on who you are and what you need. It definitely involves speaking with a doctor, asking questions, and finding out what you need to do to take care of yourself both now and in the future.

In general, it’s better to ask about future intimate partners now, before you have someone that you’re ready to be intimate with. That way, you’ll know ahead of time what protections need to be in place for both of you, and you can have that complete conversation (I know, it’s uncomfortable!) when you need to have it, and not at a moment where it’s a little bit too late and your would-be partner starts questioning your truthfulness.

Maybe you’ll need to use protection. Maybe you won’t even have to mention it. Either way – you’ll want to know before it could become an issue, so you can come to terms with it and know how to handle it when the right person comes along.

2. Talk to a mental health professional.

You’re not crazy. Not by a long shot. But the truth is that what you’ve been through – and what you’re currently going through – is profoundly traumatic. You’d be inhuman if you weren’t suffering under the strain!

Even though this happens (we actually see it all the time, unfortunately), its probably the first time it has happened to YOU. It’s a huge betrayal of trust, and it puts you in a really terrible position. If you’re dealing with divorce and separation and custody on top of the stigma of finding out that you’ve gotten an STD/STI from your PARTNER who was supposed to protect and take care of you (on top of potential adultery!), well, it’s a lot.

And you’ll do better if you talk to someone and deal productively with your feelings. Don’t be the ostrich, right?

Talk to someone. You’ll feel better. I promise.

3. Talk to a lawyer – or several.

Legally, you might not have all the rights that you wish you had. In Virginia, adultery is a crime, but it’s rarely – if ever – prosecuted.

Knowingly transmitting an STD/STI to someone who didn’t know of your infection, though, is also a crime – so you may want to talk to a criminal lawyer about your options, if you’re considering prosecution.

It’s really unclear whether, under the personal injury statutes, you’d have a right of recourse for, say, battery or intentional infliction of emotional distress. I’m not a personal injury attorney, so I don’t feel like I can really advise you with the depth and breadth I’d wish to, so I’d just suggest that, if you have questions, you talk to a PI attorney about your options.

For my purposes – as a family law attorney – adultery is grounds for an immediate divorce. It’s one of the fault based grounds of divorce, so it entitles you to file for divorce more quickly (without having to wait for your period of legal separation to run) and gain access to the court. Committing adultery is also a bar to spousal support (except in cases of manifest injustice), so if he could have asked for support from you, his adultery would defeat that. You’ll still have to prove adultery to the judge’s satisfaction, which means you’d need ‘clear and convincing’ evidence, which is a hard standard to meet. You’ll likely need a corroborating witness, too; just your STD/STI is not enough, because you could potentially have gotten it from cheating yourself!

I don’t want you to get too excited, though; divorces where adultery is involved are almost never ‘immediate’ and don’t often result in the innocent party getting more of the assets. It doesn’t really resolves things more quickly, and certainly not more inexpensively. It’s worth discussing your options with an attorney before you go too far down the line trying to get your proof in place – like hiring a private investigator.

I’m sorry that you’re in this position. I can tell you that it’s absolutely not unheard of; you’re certainly not the only one. In fact, you’re in good company. But this probably won’t make you feel much better. You’re welcome to discuss your case with a criminal and personal injury attorney if you have more questions, or to a divorce attorney about your options for a fault based divorce – in fact, I think you should.

For more information or to schedule a consultation with our office, give us a call at 757-425-5200.