When you first find out about your husband’s affair, or you start to suspect it, it can be difficult not to take immediate action. You’re angry, you’re hurt, and you’re scared—what does it mean for you, your marriage, and your future? It’s too soon to tell, but it’s not too soon for you to be lying awake, night after night, wondering and worrying.
Of course, you’re angry with him, and there’s such a deep and profound abuse of trust at the core of your anger that it’s hard to think of anything else. You know that adultery is grounds for divorce, and you want to make sure you preserve it as an issue in case you end up going that route. You scour the Internet, trying to figure out what to do.
First of all, you should relax and take a deep breath. I’m going to talk you through some of your possible next steps to help you plan your actions in the weeks and months to come.
Adultery IS a ground for divorce in Virginia, but it’s not a golden ticket. It’s pretty difficult to prove, and you’ll need a corroborating witness to prove it. It’s not enough to have a text message, email, or discarded Hallmark card, though these things can be helpful in addition to the other evidence that you would need before you got to trial. The best corroborating witness is someone like a private investigator. Before you hire a private investigator, though, you should meet with an attorney and make sure you have a clear-cut plan for how to move forward. Private investigators tend to be expensive, and you’ll really want to make sure that it’s worth it before you make the investment to hire one.
You should also make sure that you do not have sex with your husband after you learn of the adultery. In Virginia, if you have sex with him after you KNOW he has committed adultery, you have legally forgiven him for committing that adultery. This means that you cannot then ask for a divorce with adultery as your grounds (you can still get a divorce, you’ll just have to use no fault grounds). Of course, you can’t forgive him of the adultery if you don’t KNOW about the adultery.
If you commit retaliatory adultery, you’ll also lose the right to ask for divorce based on adultery.
The most important thing about adultery is that it prevents the adulterer from asking for spousal support (unless manifest injustice would result). If he didn’t have a claim for spousal support from you anyway, you will probably find that adultery doesn’t really make much difference.
If adultery is an issue in your case, you will probably want to talk to an attorney early on in the process to make decisions about how you want to move forward.