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February 17, 2009: Adultery may become grounds for denying alimony in WV again

by Jeffrey Cottrill

CHARLESTON, WV -- In recent years, "fault" has become irrelevant in most states as grounds for divorce; infidelity is no longer a reason to deny a divorcing spouse an equal share in terms of property, child custody, or support. But two lawmakers serving West Virginia are trying to bring back an old state law in which the court can deny you spousal support if your spouse's side can prove you committed adultery.

"It has always bothered me that you can almost be rewarded in a way for cheating on your spouse," Republican delegate John Ellem, who wants to revive the practice of denying alimony to those who had an affair, told the Register-Herald. Ellem and fellow delegate Robert Schadler proposed the legislation to punish infidelity on February 16.

More stories on divorce and support:
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Schadler's and Ellem's measure, known as HB2463, would mean that a party could not receive spousal support if the court decided that they were "at fault by having committed adultery". However, Ellem does admit that it can be hard to prove that infidelity has taken place. "You have to have more than just an allegation of adultery. You have to have the evidence on it," he said to the Register-Herald.

"How many cases are going to require you to actually commit adultery?" Ellem, who represents Wood County in West Virginia, continued. "I'd like to take it back to where we were prior to 2001." West Virginia family law stopped using an affair as grounds for refusing alimony in 2001 after much controversy and debate, according to Ellem. "I don't think you should be able to go out and cheat on your spouse and get alimony."

Schadler, who also proposed the legislation, represents Mineral County.

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