As a Pittsburgh family law attorney, more often than not, you see the worst parts of a couple’s relationship. Helping clients cope with extramarital affairs and the aftermath can be a significant part of the job description depending on the circumstances surrounding a divorce. One of the most difficult points to make to a client whose spouse has had an affair is just how little that affair impacts their divorce.
Pennsylvania law permits a plaintiff to seek a no fault divorce or a divorce based on fault grounds. If a party wishes to seek a fault based divorce, he or she must ask the judge to grant the divorce based on the fault of the other spouse (one such ground for divorce is adultery). However, from a practical perspective, almost nobody seeks a fault based divorce and nearly every divorce is granted on no fault grounds.
Where adultery does come into play is when the Court must make a determination of how much alimony (often referred to as spousal support) one spouse owes another following the divorce being granted. For example, the Court could take the adultery into consideration and increase the cheating spouse’s alimony order because it believes that but for the adultery, the marriage would have survived. However, in practice, the Court rarely factors adultery into an order. For one, adultery is only one factor in a laundry list that the Court must take into consideration when crafting an alimony order. Second, adultery is hard to prove and the Court simply has a difficult time making a factual determination as to whether the adultery actually occurred.
Although spouses that have been cheated on don’t like to hear it, marital misconduct often doesn’t play a significant role in a divorce action from the Court’s perspective. Divorces are, by nature, an emotional process and adultery only makes them more so. When you speak to a divorce attorney about your case, don’t be surprised when he or she tells you that the Court isn’t going to care very much about marital misconduct and suggests a no fault divorce