“I have committed adultery. Will my spouse get the lion’s share of everything, including property and higher-than-usual child support or spousal support?”
In a nutshell, adultery is a non-issue in California divorce law and, as an act, is totally irrelevant to the division of property, child support and 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 gift, not only could there be a claim for reimbursement, but also 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 effect can make dissolution very costly.
Divorce law may be very different in your hometown; please consult an attorney who specializes in family law in your area.
Stacy D. Phillips is a co-founder of Blank Rome LLP, which specializes in high-profile family law matters. She is a Certified Family Law Specialist by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization.