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How Does Cheating Affect a Divorce?
Cheating is the driving factor behind many divorce cases. Cheating could be the reason one or both parties come to the courts with a divorce petition. Whether cheating will play a role in divorce proceedings, however, depends on the state. Most states permit petitioners to bring fault-based divorce claims on the grounds of adultery. In these states, cheating could influence a judge’s decisions, such as child custody or alimony. In Colorado, however, no-fault laws mean cheating generally will not affect a divorce.
Colorado Is a No-Fault Divorce State
Colorado is one of 17 true no-fault divorce states in the U.S. True no-fault states do not allow residents to file for fault-based divorces. In Colorado, therefore, a petition cannot list adultery as a reason for the dissolution of marriage. The only acceptable grounds for divorce in Colorado is an irretrievably broken marriage. Even if cheating is what broke your marriage, the state courts do not need to know the specifics. The courts only ask that either both parties agree the marriage is irretrievably broken or the respondent does not deny it.
Cheating will not impact any of a judge’s decisions during most divorce cases in Colorado. Since a petitioner cannot assert adultery as a reason for the dissolution, the judge will not consider it during child custody, property division or alimony decisions. In a fault-based state, on the other hand, a judge may use cheating as a determining factor in these important decisions. In general, the spouse that did not cheat could receive a greater portion of marital property and alimony in a fault-based divorce state.
Exceptions to the Rule
Although cheating will not play a factor in most no-fault divorce cases in Colorado, some exceptions to the rule exist. In extreme situations, adultery could impact a judge’s decisions. A judge in Colorado will not look at a spouse’s moral or ethical fitness, but he or she could assess how adultery might impact material aspects of the case. If you are curious as to whether cheating might affect your divorce, consult a lawyer.
- Marital waste. Colorado is an equitable distribution state, meaning a judge will divide marital property based on what is fair and equal for the couple. Many factors could influence a judge’s decision, including marital waste. This is a legal issue in which one spouse spends an excessive amount of money; for example, if a spouse spends an exorbitant amount on travel or hotel rooms while having an affair. In cases involving marital waste, a judge could award greater marital assets to the other spouse.
- A child’s best interests. In some adultery situations, a judge may see one parent’s romantic relationship as something that could potentially go against the child’s best interests. If the parent’s new spouse has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse, for example, the judge may not feel comfortable awarding that parent primary custody of the child. The child’s best interests will be the main standard in making this decision, however, not the fact that one parent cheated on the other.
- A prenuptial agreement. Some couples in Colorado sign prenuptial agreements before getting married. A prenuptial agreement could have an infidelity clause, in which case cheating would affect the divorce. An infidelity clause could state that if one spouse cheats on the other, the cheating spouse must face the consequences listed in the prenup, such as getting to keep fewer marital assets.
In most cases, it will not matter if your spouse cheated on you in Colorado. If your relationship fulfills one of the exceptions, however, you may need a lawyer’s assistance in navigating how adultery might impact your divorce. A lawyer could help you use your spouse’s adultery to your advantage, if possible, or defend you against such actions if you are the one guilty of infidelity. Regardless of your situation, a divorce attorney could help you work through a complicated divorce case in Colorado.
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