I have committed adultery. Will my spouse get everything?
In a nutshell, adultery is a non-issue in California divorce law. If you have committed adultery, is totally irrelevant to the division of property, child support, spousal support, and custody issues – except in very, very narrow circumstances. The only time adultery comes into play is if the act is committed in front of a couple’s child or children. Presuming that has not occurred, the mere act of adultery does not figure when it comes to the conditions of ending a marriage in California.
Rather than the act of adultery, it is the act of expending community-property funds on an extra-marital partner that gets people in trouble. For example, if a wedded partner spends money from a joint checking account on his or her lover’s condo or apartment, or buys them jewelry or some other expensive gift, there could be a claim for reimbursement as well as a claim for breach of fiduciary duty. Legally, that partner has misappropriated community money, and that is the crux of the issue. In other words, it is a violation of the fiduciary duty of the wedded spouse. There are very specific laws in California as to breach of fiduciary duty and its ramifications, and their financial and emotional effects can make dissolution very costly.
Stacy D. Phillips is a co-founder of Phillips Lerner, A Law Corporation, which specializes in high-profile family law matters. She is co-chair of the Women’s Political Committee and a member of Divorce Magazine’s North American Advisory Board.