Adultery and Divorce in Alabama
A large percentage of marriages end in divorce, and one of the major reasons couples get divorced is because of marital infidelity on the part of at least one of the spouses. In Alabama, adultery can impact a divorce in some significant ways. Unlike many other states, Alabama allows both “no-fault” and fault-based divorces, and adultery is one of the potential “grounds” for a fault-based divorce.
A spouse can seek a fault-based divorce if they can show that the other spouse committed marital misconduct, meaning committing some action that caused irreparable harm to the marriage. Adultery is among the actions that would constitute marital misconduct. In Alabama, adultery occurs when an individual who is married engages in voluntary sexual intercourse with someone who is not the individual’s legal spouse.
How Does Adultery Impact a Divorce in Alabama?
Other than serving as the grounds for a divorce, adultery can have an affect on several aspects of the final settlement. If adultery can be proven, it can provide a strategic advantage for the non-adulterous spouse during the divorce proceedings.
Here are some areas of a divorce where adultery could be a factor:
Alabama is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital assets are not necessarily divided 50/50 during a divorce. Instead, they are divided equitably based on several subjective factors. One of these factors could be the use of marital assets to support an adulterous affair. For example, if it is discovered that a cheating husband purchased expensive gifts for his mistress, went on luxurious trips with her, rented an apartment for her, provided her with direct financial support, or used marital property in any other way to benefit the extra-marital relationship, the court may decide to deduct whatever was spent on the relationship from his share of the marital property. This is designed not so much to punish the adulterous spouse as it is to ensure that the property distribution is equitable.
Infidelity by a spouse does not necessarily impact the payment or receipt of alimony in Alabama. However, the court is allowed to consider several factors in deciding whether to award spousal support, the type of support that should be awarded, and how much should be paid. These factors include:
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age and health of each spouse;
- The skills, employment history, and earning capacity of each spouse;
- The established standard of living during the marriage;
- The property, assets, and income of each spouse;
- The tax consequences of the alimony award;
- The conduct of each spouse and the impact that conduct had in causing the divorce;
- Any other factors the court may deem relevant.
Since the conduct of the spouses and whether or not that conduct contributed to the divorce is one of the potential actors in determining spousal support, the court may decide to raise, lower, or eliminate the award if it finds that marital infidelity played a significant role in the dissolution of the marriage.
An extra-marital affair may or may not impact the determination of child custody and visitation, depending on the specific circumstances in the case. Alabama courts decide child custody based on the best interests of the child. So, if the child was exposed to the extra-marital relationship and the court determines that this relationship will have a detrimental affect on the child, the adulterous spouse could be denied custody. The extra-marital relationship may also impact visitation for the same reason. If the non-custodial parent is the one who committed adultery, the court may decide to restrict the spouse’s lover from seeing the child.
Speak with an Experienced Dothan, AL Family Law Attorney
Alabama still allows fault-based divorces, and adultery can serve as the grounds for a divorce if it can be proven. If adultery can be used as the grounds for a divorce, it can be a determining factor in the final settlement. If you are facing a divorce in which marital infidelity is a factor, you need a seasoned attorney in your corner strongly advocating for your rights and interests.
At Smith & McGhee, PC, we have over three decades of experience representing clients for divorce and other family legal matters. We have in-depth knowledge of this area of law, and we work closely with our clients to develop the most practical, effective, and cost-efficient legal solutions.
For a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys, call us today at 334-702-1744. You may also send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.