If your wife cheated on you and you have decided to file for divorce, it will be important for you to understand how adultery affects (and doesn’t affect) the divorce process in New Jersey. While your wife’s cheating is not entirely irrelevant, you may be surprised to learn that adultery generally does not play a significant role in the process or outcome of most divorces under New Jersey law.
Should You File for a Fault-Based Divorce?
New Jersey is one of the limited number of states that still allow spouses to file for divorce on certain fault-based grounds. Under Section 2A:34-2 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes, adultery is specifically listed as a form of “marital fault.” However, New Jersey allows spouses to file for divorce on no-fault grounds as well; and, even if your wife cheated on you, it may still be in your best interests to file for a no-fault divorce instead of filing on fault-based grounds.
When you file for a no-fault divorce, all that is required is a statement that you and your wife have reached “irreconcilable differences.” You do not need to prove that these differences exist; and, if your wife challenges your divorce filing, the fact that you disagree over whether to get divorced can itself demonstrate the irreconcilability required for a no-fault divorce in New Jersey.
By contrast, when you file for a fault-based divorce, you need to be able to prove it. In other words, you will need evidence that your wife cheated on you. Aside from being emotionally disconcerting and expensive, this can also delay your divorce filing, and it will give your wife (and her attorney) the opportunity to argue that you have not presented sufficient evidence to justify a fault-based divorce.
Additionally, even if you prove your wife’s adultery, the benefits of filing for a fault-based divorce will be limited. In today’s world, the courts focus much more on finding mutually-agreeable terms to end the parties’ marriage than on assigning and punishing fault. Furthermore, to the extent that your wife’s adultery is relevant to your marriage, you can still raise the issue without filing for a fault-based divorce.
How Will Your Wife’s Adultery Impact the Outcome of Your Divorce?
Even if you file for a no-fault divorce, you can still raise the issue of your wife’s adultery to the extent that it is relevant to specific aspects of the divorce process. Depending on the circumstances of your divorce, this may include:
- Property Distribution – While the fact that your wife cheated will not necessarily affect the equitable distribution of your marital estate, it can be relevant in one specific way: If your wife used marital assets to fund her affair (i.e. by purchasing plane tickets and hotel rooms), you may be entitled to recoup these costs out of your wife’s share of the marital estate.
- Alimony – Similar to property distribution, if your wife’s affair had an economic impact on your marriage, then it may factor into the determination of alimony. However, the concept of “punishing” a wife for cheating by denying her alimony is not generally recognized in New Jersey.
- Child Custody – The New Jersey courts consider a variety of factors in determining what is in a child’s “best interests” with regard to custody and visitation, or parenting time. One of these factors is, “the stability of the home environment offered.” If your wife’s cheating negatively reflects on her ability to raise and care for your children (or if her boyfriend is a drug user or alcoholic), then it may factor into the determination of child custody in your divorce.
Speak with a Hackensack, NJ Family Lawyer about Your Divorce
Are you considering a divorce because your wife cheated on you? If so, we encourage you to contact us to learn more about your legal rights. To schedule a confidential initial divorce consultation with an attorney at MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law™ of New Jersey, please call (201) 654-4263 or request an appointment online today.