Women, like men, have affairs for all kinds of reasons, though those reasons are usually very different. For women, it generally has more to do with the level of satisfaction she’s experiencing in her marriage—an unhappy woman, for example, is 2.6 times more likely to cheat. Usually, it’s the result of some underlying condition. The infidelity is generally only a symptom of a much larger problem.
In some cases, the affair can bring this problem to light in a healthy and productive way. The couple can look at the issues, discover what caused the woman to seek the affair, address those issues, and, ultimately, re-build the marriage. I’m sure it’s not easy, but many marriages can be revived at the very, very end of the road, when no one thought it was possible that the damage could be repaired.
In other cases, however, the damage can’t be repaired, and things are so deteriorated that neither party can make things work anymore. I’m not here to tell you which category you may fall under, if any, or to make judgments based on what you may have done or how you may be feeling about it now. I am, however, here to offer you a few pieces of advice to help inform you as you move forward.
1. If your husband can prove that you have committed adultery, you can’t ask the court for spousal support (unless you can prove manifest injustice—and that’s hard). Why? Well, the theory is that the adultery was the reason for the breakdown of the marriage—had you not committed adultery, the marriage would still be in tact, and you wouldn’t need spousal support. Essentially, you shouldn’t profit from your misdeeds. Is this fair? Probably not. The law is a complicated thing, but it’s not so complicated that it can understand and predict human behavior. It can’t determine the reason you cheated, and come up with a different result depending on how “good” your reasoning may be. It provides blanket standards that apply to all.
2. Be discreet. Keep your secrets to yourself. Remember that, even if you’ve admitted adultery to your husband, that’s not enough for him to prove it in court. Still, it’s not a good idea to hand him a gun and load it for him (metaphorically, I mean). If you’re still seeing the other person, stop it immediately.
3. Live, at all times, as though a private investigator may be following you. Using a private investigator is one of the best ways to prove adultery in the courts. Don’t think your husband won’t do it.
4.You can still ask for spousal support in a separation agreement. Remember that there is a huge difference between what two rational adults can agree to in a contract and what a judge has the authority to award. It can save everyone a lot of time and money to stay out of the courts and negotiate an agreement, and that gives you a little leverage to ask for support (if you would qualify for it otherwise).
Adultery creates messy situations, because of the sense of betrayal that it evokes. Technically, under Virginia law, adultery is still a crime for which you could still be prosecuted. It’s also grounds for immediate divorce. Still, you have to PROVE that the adultery has been committed, and that’s a tricky thing to do.
I see a lot of divorces filed on adultery, but most of the cases end up being switched to a no fault before the final decree of divorce is entered. Why? Well, like we’ve already discussed, it’s much quicker, easier, and cheaper to negotiate an agreement. For another, it really doesn’t make much difference in the final outcome (except in terms of spousal support). The court could, theoretically, award a disproportionate amount of the marital assets to one or the other of you based on your fault, but it’s really not likely. In most cases, equitable distribution (that’s the fancy word lawyers use for property distribution) is still something pretty close to 50/50. With the exception of whether the court would award spousal support, the final decree of divorce will reflect something very similar to what the parties would have agreed to themselves (without the extra time and money it took to go to court—and this can be substantial).
In a nutshell, my advice would be, if you’ve committed adultery, keep quiet about it. Do everything you can to keep your relationship civil, and encourage your husband to negotiate a separation agreement with you instead of litigating your divorce in the courts. Your divorce will end up being quicker (because you won’t have to wait for a trial date in court), easier (because the two of you can agree on your own to your property distribution), cheaper (because you won’t have to pay an attorney to prepare for and conduct a trial), and more fair (because fault won’t play a role and you can concentrate on making sure everyone has the tools to rebuild their lives later). Don’t think that just because you’ve committed adultery, you’re doomed with respect to your divorce.