Everything comes at a cost – especially when you mess with someone’s heart. Sometimes the cost is in literal dollars and sometimes you pay an emotional uproar. When it comes to divorce, you generally pay in both. For marriage, financial support, betrayal, and divorce are regularly, and hopelessly, intertwined. And when you’re at risk of having them control your life; it makes you wonder what the real cost of adultery is.

An Emotional Cost

It goes without saying that when you have an affair, you are risking destroying your marriage. While plenty of couples are able to get through infidelity and work it out, but the reality is there are many more that don’t. A spouse’s affair is often the death of a marriage. Even those marriages that make it through an affair, a spouse’s cheating makes it hard for trust to truly be felt in a relationship again.

While that trust can be rebuilt, most couples end up not trying to at all. It’s especially if the marriage was failing long before the affair even happened. But adultery affects more than just your marriage, and your heart, it leads to divorce, which can wreak havoc on your finances too. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, marital infidelity doesn’t have to have as big of an impact on the financial side of divorce as it can be.

Adultery and Divorce

Adultery is one of the oldest grounds for divorce and one of the most popular storylines when it comes to movies and TV shows. In fact, historically, in many cultures, adultery was punishable by death. It is still a crime in many states in the United States, though it is an offender is rarely ever prosecuted nowadays.

While scorned spouses still may get emotional satisfaction from filing divorce papers that publicly proclaim that their spouse cheated on them, there is little legal reason to pursue that kind of claim. Infidelity generally does not have a big impact on custody, child support, or parenting time at all. The only time a spouse’s affair will affect the outcome of a divorce is when the affair itself had a direct effect on your children, which of course, rarely happens.

So, unless your spouse dragged your teenager to a strip club or something, your spouse’s infidelity hasn’t directly harmed your kids. Adultery also has no effect on the division of property in the divorce. For example, just because one spouse cheated, it doesn’t mean that the other spouse gets more than them soon to be ex-spouse. However, the only exception to this rule would be dissipation.


Simply put, dissipation is when one person recklessly spends marital funds, or uses a marital asset, for a purpose that does not directly benefit the marriage.  Dissipation is funds that have left the marital estate, thus reducing what could possibly be divided in the divorce settlement. Examples include gambling, excessive alcohol use, purchasing illegal drugs, expenses on any activity related to an affair, and unusual or excessive purchases that were not agreed upon by both of those in the marriage. When it comes to adultery, this basically means that one spouse spent money on their affair partner.

You can usually find a few scattered restaurant bills or maybe even a receipt for some flowers or jewelry. And when that’s all you’ve got, the price of paying for an attorney and accountant might not seem worth the dissipation you found. Dissipation is one of those things that the offended spouse knows is happening but is having trouble providing evidence.

An extensive legal analysis of household finances is generally required to identify specific examples of dissipated funds by dates, use, and dollar amounts of the spending. The more efforts that have been made by the disloyal spouse to hide the dissipation; the more analysis will be required.

Few things in life hurt more than discovering that your spouse has been cheating on you. When infidelity destroys your marriage, it’s only natural that you want to use your spouse’s bad acts to punish your spouse. Proving and establishing dissipation might be a bit difficult but understanding the potential impact it can make on the overall division of the remaining martial estate, it might be well worth the effort.

For better or for worse, your spouse’s unfaithfulness may have ruined your marriage, but it’s more than likely to make a huge difference in your divorce. If you are interested in learning more about how Shaffer Family Law can help you through the divorce process, give us a call at (480) 470-3030. You don’t have to go through things alone.

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