Effects of Bad Acts on Divorce
Parties to a divorce rarely make it through the process without experiencing some amount of emotional and psychological scarring. The divorce process is an inherently personal event that usually serves as a life-marker for the couple as they transition from functioning as a two-person unit to having to do everything on their own. The difficulty of the process is typically enhanced by the need to compromise on issues integral to family life – child custody, child support, alimony and property division, but things can easily become even more divisive if one spouse is accused of bad or immoral behavior that directly led to the collapse of the marriage. While “at fault” divorce is no longer recognized in Florida, that does not mean that a spouse’s damaging behavior has no effect on the divorce settlement. A wealthy couple in Palm Beach in the midst of a divorce included accusations by the wife that the husband carried on an affair for number of years during the marriage. Recently, the court granted the wife sole use of the couple’s Palm Beach condo, which could signal a willingness by the court to provide her with a greater share of the assets.
Alimony and Property Division
Many states are becoming less inclined to consider adultery in divorce cases, thereby taking away the wronged spouse’s leverage, but Florida does specifically direct courts to take into account this information when deciding alimony awards. As a preliminary matter, proof that a spouse committed adultery must be presented to the court before it will have any weight in the court’s decision. Further, proving adultery does not automatically mean the other spouse will receive a more favorable divorce settlement. The court is permitted, but not required, to include this factor in its consideration, and the weight given to this fact will be dependent on the specifics of each case.
When it comes to property division, adultery is not explicitly stated as a factor in the final property division award, but the court is instructed to look at evidence that spouse intentionally dissipated, wasted, depleted or destroyed marital assets once the divorce petition was filed or during the previous two years. It is not uncommon for a cheating spouse to spend significant amounts of money to foster an adulterous relationship, and such expenditures could certainly be considered intentional waste. In addition, the court is permitted to divide property to the extent necessary “to do equity and justice between the parties.” It would not be out of bounds for a court to award a spouse a larger portion of the marital estate as a remedy to the cheating spouse’s behavior, especially if the relationship affected the value of the assets available for distribution.
Adultery will only affect child custody decisions if the affair affects the wellbeing of the child, or that awarding custody to this spouse would not be in the child’s best interest. Child custody decisions are much more commonly affected by allegations of physical or mental abuse of a spouse or other family members such that the child’s psychological, emotional or physical well being becomes a concern. A court is looking for information that would call into question the spouse’s ability to be a good custodian of the child’s well being if custody is to be awarded.
If you are going through a divorce with a spouse that engaged in bad behavior that directly led to the end of the marriage, you want a divorce attorney that will know how to effectively use this information to your advantage. The Fort Lauderdale law office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. represents clients in all types of family law matters, and will work to get the best possible solution for you. Contact the office to set up a free consultation.