The answer to this depends upon the circumstances. Adultery is one of several grounds available for divorce in Illinois. Another ground in Illinois is called “no fault divorce” (where no one is at blame), also known as Irreconcilable Differences. The fact that your spouse cheated and committed adultery provides you with the right to obtain a divorce. That said, you will not receive a larger share of the property, more maintenance (formerly known as alimony), or custody of your children, solely based on the fact that your spouse cheated. In fact, Illinois law expressly states that these issues must be decided “without regard to marital misconduct”.
Interestingly, the financial aspects of cheating may attract the court’s attention. Where there is infidelity we often find money which belongs to both spouses, spent by the cheating spouse for illicit purposes. When someone uses money belonging to the marriage for an expense unrelated to a family purpose, that person is guilty of “dissipation”. Common examples of dissipation include buying presents for a paramour or mistress, traveling with someone other than your spouse and gambling. You are only entitled to that money after your marriage has broken down irreconcilably. If someone is found guilty of dissipation, their spouse may legally claim that this money or property be returned to the marriage.
Cheating also can have non-legal implications because when discovered by the innocent spouse it often triggers many emotional responses. These emotions cover a broad range and can interfere with the ability to settle your case. A wronged spouse may initially be focused on revenge and punishment, resulting in a case continuing longer and costing more than it would have if cheating were not an element. Also, because infidelity introduces mistrust, the attorney of the innocent spouse may need to put more effort into investigating the parties’ finances.
I’ve also had cases where infidelity has affected the children’s relationship with their fathers. In one case, the children felt betrayed by their father because they also were lied to. These children discovered that instead of their father missing their games, award ceremonies, dance recitals and the like because of a business trip, he was off on vacation with his girlfriend. The lies created feelings of mistrust and disappointment.
There are other implications of cheating. In many states including Illinois, adultery is a crime. Additionally, there a several types of civil lawsuits an adulterer may subject themselves to such as intentional infliction of emotional distress, alienation of affections, and affecting someone with a STD. If one is found guilty of any of these charges, he may be liable for money damages. If infidelity or betrayal is one of the reasons you are filing for divorce, make sure you are aware of the legal recourses and options which you are entitled to seek under these circumstances.
Chicago lawyer Michael C. Craven represents clients in all areas of family law including divorce, property division, custody, child support, paternity, domestic violence, and the preparation of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. He can be reached at (312) 621-9700 or via email at [email protected]. View his Divorce Magazine profile.