Of those who found themselves wincing at Silda Spitzer
as she stood by her cheating husband, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer
, were many who’ve felt the sting of adultery
. A University of Chicago
study found that 25 percent of all marriages are affected by adultery. If a spouse divorces a cheater, can they get more of the marital assets? Maybe.
While all’s fair in love and war, that's not necessarily so in divorce court. “In California
, adultery doesn't make a bit of difference in division of property... judges don’t get into it. Often, people are very disappointed to hear that,” said Nordin F. Blacker
, president of the Northern California Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
. However, all is not lost.
“You can put yourself in a better position and bargain for more favorable terms, if you know how to go about it,” said Ruth Houston
, author of "Is He Cheating on You? – 829 Telltale Signs
". Here are seven steps to negotiating for a better settlement:
1. Do your homework.
“Don’t wait until the cheater cleans out the bank account and leaves or you’ll lose your chance to gain the upper hand. If you suspect that something might be going on, be smart and quietly go about getting some of the details,” Houston said. According to a recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), 88 percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys have seen an increase in cases using electronic data as evidence during the past five years.
“Technology is having a big impact on the way that divorces are now conducted,” said James Hennenhoefer,
president of the AAML. “Many people still don‘t realize how much evidence can be gleaned from personal electronics
ranging from computers to cell phones and GPS devices. In the Internet age, there is often a very clear trail...” E-mail is the most commonly used form of technological evidence
, with 82 percent citing it as the main source. Text/instant messaging and Internet browsing history tie for second with seven percent each, while one percent of the respondents cite data taken from GPS systems. The survey also reveals that wives are more likely to make use of electronic evidence. Once you have evidence, confront your spouse. “Letting your spouse know you’re aware of their affair may make the difference between being dumped and negotiating for more favorable terms,” said Houston.
For a spouse facing the loss of a marriage, working a deal where infidelity is kept quiet in exchange for a larger settlement may make sense for both parties. For example, the U. S. military considers adultery unacceptable conduct. If a soldier commits adultery, he/she can be charged with Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice
. If found guilty, the adultery will reflect adversely on their service record.
“If you do decide to pursue this avenue, you will have to keep quiet as you are learning about the affair, otherwise you will lose your bargaining power,” said Houston. Also, proving adultery isn’t easy. “Even if you have a video of your husband and his secretary going into a hotel room, that doesn’t mean you’ve proven anything,” said Thomas Wolfrum
, a certified Family Law Specialist who is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. 2. Find out if you’re in a fault/no-fault state.
There are fault grounds such as adultery, physical cruelty, mental cruelty, habitual drunkenness and desertion; and, there are no-fault grounds such as "irreconcilable differences" or living separately for a time.