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Will your spouse’s affair impact property division in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2022 | Family Law

Although your wedding vows probably included mutual promises of fidelity, your spouse broke that promise. Whether it was the year after you got married or two decades into a shared life together, you learned that your spouse was unfaithful. The shock of the discovery may have led to fights, or it may have broken your trust in them even if you didn’t confront them about it.

Now, you want to file for divorce and move on with your life. Infidelity is one of the most common reasons that people file for divorce in California. The spouses responding to the unexpected unfaithfulness of their partner often feel slighted and angry. It is common to want justice.

Some people expect that the courts will punish their ex for their misconduct by giving the spouse who didn’t cheat more property in the divorce. Does an extramarital affair impact how a California family law judge divides your property? 

Misconduct usually does not influence property division

If you have a marital agreement that imposes a financial penalty for cheating, then you may have a right to make a financial claim. Otherwise, there are few financial consequences for an affair.

California has community property laws that give each spouse a possible claim to the property and income the couple acquires throughout their marriage. Under no-fault divorce rules, a judge won’t consider who filed for the divorce or the reasons for the filing when they divide the property. Simply having an extramarital affair does not alter one spouse’s right to claim marital property, nor does it put them at risk of a judge denying them assets from the marital estate.

However, there is one situation in which an extramarital affair could have a bearing on property division. When the person cheating on their spouse spends money on their affair, that spending could influence property division. Using marital assets in a way that does not support the marital relationship but rather does harm may constitute the dissipation of marital assets and affect how a judge decides to divide the property the couple shares.

If you have proof that your spouse spent thousands of dollars on hotel rooms or vacations, then that spending could impact the division of your other property. Understanding the rules that govern California divorces can help you seek justice effectively and then move on with your life.