Dealing with a divorce is almost always an emotionally difficult and complex time. It can be a challenge to process the emotions that accompany the end of your marriage relationship, especially as you have likely spent years or even decades planning your future with your spouse. When the divorce is due to adultery of your spouse, these emotions can get even more complicated. It is normal to feel betrayed and angry. It is important for divorce litigants whose divorce involves allegations of infidelity to understand how adultery may matter to the outcome of their case.
First, parties to a divorce need to understand that Minnesota is a “no fault” divorce state. This means that either spouse is able to obtain a divorce regardless of whether he or she is the spouse who is being unfaithful. This can seem particularly unfair to spouses who have remained faithful over the years, but the purpose of this rule is to help streamline and shorten the process by eliminating an element that requires accumulating proof and presentation of evidence at a trial.
This is not to say, however, that adultery can never be relevant in a divorce case. One important way that it can be relevant is the area of child custody. Although the faithfulness of a spouse is not in and of itself relevant to custody determinations, the way in which a spouse is unfaithful can be relevant. For example, if a parent is always intentionally choosing to spend time with a new partner instead of exercising parenting time, this could be a relevant issue for trial. Moreover, if a parent’s new partner is a danger to the children by, for example, being violent or a registered sex offender, this could also weigh into a court’s custody and visitation determination.
Next, there is a possibility that infidelity could factor in to division of marital assets. The fact that one spouse is not faithful is not enough alone to require a court to give an unequal division of assets. However, if the unfaithful spouse has dissipated marital assets by giving lavish gifts to the new partner or taking him or her on extravagant vacations, the court can certainly consider this misapplication of marital funds and try to compensate by giving a larger share to the spouse who has not dissipated assets.