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Will the Court Order Me to Pay Alimony Because I Cheated?

There was a time when divorce in Florida required proof of one spouse's fault in causing the breakup of the marriage. Adultery was obviously a common example of fault. Today Florida permits “no-fault” divorce, meaning neither spouse has to allege or prove adultery as a precondition for obtaining a divorce. But that does not mean that adultery may not factor into the resolution of certain issues arising from a no-fault divorce, include the potential award of alimony.

Adultery and the “Dissipation of Marital Assets”

Florida law puts it succinctly: “The court may consider the adultery of either spouse and the circumstances thereof in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded.” The phrase “may consider” is critical. A spouse is not automatically required to pay alimony just because he or she may have cheated. Conversely, a spouse that can otherwise demonstrate a financial need for adultery will not be automatically denied for having an affair.

Ultimately, the decision to award or deny alimony comes down to the relative financial position of the spouses once the divorce becomes final. The court judge must consider all of the relevant evidence and produce specific factual findings. The judge cannot simply cite one spouse's adultery as the sole–or even principal–factor in rendering a decision.

That said, adultery is often relevant to alimony determinations when there is a “dissipation of marital assets” related to the cheating itself. To put this in plain English, let's consider two hypothetical divorce scenarios. In the first case, a spouse got drunk at an office Christmas party and had a one-night stand with a co-worker. In the second case, a spouse had a six-month affair, during which time he spent thousands of dollars in gifts, travel, and entertainment for his new paramour.

With respect to the first case, the adultery probably will not have much impact on the judge's decision regarding alimony. After all, a one-time sexual tryst has no effect on the “marital estate,” i.e. the property jointly owned by the spouses. But in the second case, where the cheating spouse actually spent money that belonged to the marital estate to support his affair, that would definitely have a significant impact on the judge's ruling.

And the reverse is also true. If you have an affair whereby you spend money to take trips with your secret lover, a judge is going to be skeptical, to say the least, when you demand alimony on the grounds you cannot afford to financially support yourself.

Helping You Focus on the Facts

Adultery is an emotional topic. But when it comes to seeking alimony–or defending against such requests–courts need to see hard evidence and not just hurt feelings. Whatever side of the argument you find yourself on, a qualified Ocala & Gainesville family law attorney can assist you in building and presenting your case. Call Dunham & Ingram LLC at (352) 353-8117 to schedule a free case evaluation today with a member of our experienced legal team.