Cincinnati Family Law & Divorce Blog: What Are My Rights if My Spouse Has Cheated?
Few people find it fair to learn that the answer to this question, in most Ohio cases, it is none. It seems fundamentally unfair that a married person can commit adultery and face no consequences, monetary or otherwise. Yet, in an Ohio court of law, there are no penalties against people who have committed adultery and, in fact, rarely will a court even be interested in hearing the details. The reason for this is a court looks at marriage like a business partnership. It is the obligation of the court to determine the assets and debts of the marital partnership and equitably divide those assets and debts, and to then decide if support is appropriate. Nowhere will you find among the factors a court is to consider whether someone was at fault.
The few exceptions to this rule relate to financial misconduct or the determination of the best interest of children.
If a person is found to have used marital earnings or assets to buy gifts or support a paramour, the court can determine the amount misspent and award money back to the other spouse. This does require proof however. A vague accusation that gifts were purchased, or trips were taken, will not provide the factual basis required by a court to issue a monetary award.
An affair can be considered when it comes to a court making decisions about custody. For example, if one party is involved with someone who has a history of drug abuse or domestic violence, a court can consider the impact of this relationship on a child. Or, if a parent has made poor choices by attempting to integrate a child into the family of a paramour prematurely, this questionable behavior will be considered.
Great disappointment and anger can be heard in clients’ voices when they learn from their attorney that courts don’t care about all the wrongs their spouse committed. We are sympathetic to these feelings. Yet, a lawyer does a client disservice to experience the same outrage or to suggest that punishment will be imposed by a court. It is our job as lawyers to be frank and sometimes this means telling a client something they don’t want to hear.
Undoubtedly, people do horrible things to their spouses that cause immeasurable pain. But the court system is not in the business of placing a dollar value on that pain or punishing the wrongdoer. That is not what a family court does. For better or worse, the job of the court is to divide the assets of the marital partnership.
This information is based on Ohio law. Other states may view these issues differently. Ask your attorney for more information.