Virginia adultery cases are some of the worst we deal with because there are so many feelings and emotions involved. It’s hard to move past the hurt, anger, and resentment to focus instead on what you’ll need to accomplish to give yourself the best new start possible. It’s understandable, of course—after all, a person is always entitled to their feelings, especially in such a difficult situation—but it does mean that these types of cases add another extra layer of difficulty onto something that is already plenty difficult to begin with.
It’s not, of course, just the cheatee’s feelings—the cheater can’t be overlooked here. A lot of times (though, admittedly, not always), the cheater, especially in the beginning, is overcome with guilt for his actions. We see women come in all the time who tell us that, because their husbands cheated, they have agreed to hand over all the assets in the marriage.
I had a consultation just like this the other day. The woman I met with, Anne, was telling me that her husband cheated on her during and following a deployment. He met and grew attached to a subordinate officer (who is also married), and, now that they’ve returned, they’re planning on being together, each leaving their spouse. Anne told me, tearfully, about the conversation she had with her husband where he told her about his girlfriend and the fact that he would be leaving the marital home. “He promised me everything,” she told me. “Retirement, spousal support, child support, all the money in our savings accounts, and he even said I can relocate to Alaska—where my family is from–with the kids.” She went on to say, also, that he agreed to take on all the family’s debt, and pay the mortgage until she moves or the divorce is finalized. She could have her car, which was paid off, and he’d take his car, which still had an outstanding loan. All he wanted, she told me, was a TV, a computer, and a recliner. The rest of the property in the home would be hers, to do with as she pleased.
Though Anne was devastated, she felt optimistic about all the things her husband was promising her. Afraid that she would tell his command about his relationship with a subordinate officer, he was willing to give up pretty much everything.
(A side note about calling his command: It’s almost NEVER a good idea to call his command and complain about your husband’s behavior, no matter what your motivation. If you’ve got a financial stake in his staying employed (which you certainly do if you expect to receive child support, spousal support, a share of his retirement, or medical insurance for your children after divorce), you want to make sure that he is gainfully employed and earning at his highest potential. Calling could result in him being demoted or not promoted, which is definitely not ideal from your perspective. You may think that it’s a good idea, but I urge you not to contact your husband’s command unless your attorney recommends that you do it. Always, always, always talk to your attorney first.
Most of the time though, in cases like Anne’s, the guilt that comes from having an affair doesn’t last forever. Sure, he’s feeling pretty bad right now, and he’s willing to give away a lot—but until that agreement is in writing, there’s really nothing particularly enforceable about it. Once his guilt starts to fade, he will likely start to feel pretty self righteous. He won’t want to give away everything. He’ll start to blame his soon to be ex wife for him straying, and he won’t be nearly as willing to give away as much of the assets of the marriage as he was before.
What should I do? My husband cheated, and he promised me everything—but it isn’t in writing yet.
You’ve got to get it in writing.
I don’t like to push people to act before they’re ready; really, in everything that I do, I try to be as un pushy as humanly possible. I know that there’s a lot at stake in a divorce case, and a lot hinges on my clients being ready to act at the time that they retain me. I don’t want someone to retain who isn’t really ready, and I certainly don’t want her to feel, at the end of the day, like she was pushed to act faster than she felt ready.
Most of the time, the clock isn’t ticking. Sometimes, it is—like when your husband has already filed for divorce, you’ve been served, and you know you’ve only got 21 days to respond. But, really, most of the time, you can move as slowly as you need to. That’s not to say that your husband might not get impatient and start to move things ahead on his own time (usually, by filing for divorce, like we’ve already briefly discussed), but usually there’s not much reason to rush.
In a case like this, though, where your husband is promising to give you more than you’d get in court (in Anne’s case, especially the cross country relocation!), there’s a reason to move quickly. Before his guilt fades and he starts to feel self righteous, you’ve got to get what you want in writing—and signed. Because sure as the sky is blue, soon enough he’ll start to justify his decisions. Then, I think it’s very likely that you’ll find he’s no longer so amenable to an agreement that leaves you in such a strong financial position.
In this type of case, there is a rush. The sooner you can hire an attorney, get an agreement drafted, and present it to your guilt stricken husband, the better. Time is of the essence here.
How do I know if what he’s offering is as good as it sounds?
Of course, everything I mentioned earlier sounds good, but how do you know if what your husband is talking about offering to you is really as good as it seems? Curious about what he’s offering and what the court might award if it went that far? Smart. Very, very smart.
So, maybe you’re essentially the poster child for a wife who would receive permanent spousal support.
Maybe a judge would be unlikely to award you spousal support at all. Maybe your husband is only offering things that look good, but he’s got some scheme in mind to withhold some other valuable things for himself. Maybe you don’t know all the details, and you don’t really know what you don’t know. You used to trust him, but not you regard everything he’s telling you with skepticism. You want to make sure, before you sign, that what he’s offering is what you deserve. You know that you can’t un sign a separation agreement later, and you want to be sure that you get it right now.
For more information about your case or what to expect, consider requesting a copy of one of our free books. They’re chock full of up to date, Virginia specific information that will help you start to plan your divorce process. We have four different books, so one is certainly appropriate for your particular situation:
• What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce
• What Every Virginia Military Wife Needs to Know About Divorce
• The Women’s Custody Survival Guide
• The Woman’s guide to Selecting an Outstanding Divorce and Custody Lawyer
For more information on each book, or to request your free copy now, just click on the link above. Immediately after you request a copy, you’ll receive a downloadable e-book version and then, if you live in our immediate area, we’ll send you an email with a form to fill out to request a copy of your free hardcover book. Either way, it’s an awesome way to get up to date, Virginia specific information about divorce and custody cases so that you can begin to see the forest instead of just the trees.
There’s no question this process is complicated, but you can help make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible by getting the information you need to make choices—now, and as your divorce progresses.
Need more information than you can get from a book? Consider attending one of our seminars for more information on your divorce or custody case. Need an extra special bonus? Each seminar is taught by one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce attorneys, and you can use the time to ask your questions (keeping in mind, of course, that it’s not a confidential forum like a one on one appointment would be). It’s a great time to gather information and get together the facts you’ll need to begin making decisions, and we can definitely give you information about what to expect when it comes to Virginia adultery cases.
• Second Saturday: What Every Virginia Woman Needs to Know About Divorce
• Custody Bootcamp for Moms
For more information on any of our seminars or to find out what you’ll learn at each, just click on the links above.
To schedule an appointment with one of our licensed and experienced attorneys, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200. Good luck!