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What is the Impact of Adultery in Maryland Divorce and Child Custody Cases

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Infidelity is a common cause of divorce. Some estimates show over 40% of married couples in the U.S. have been impacted by adultery, although not all of those marriages end as a result. Being cheated on is extraordinarily painful and many victims of adultery do choose to file for divorce.

Is Adultery Grounds For Divorce in Maryland?

Technically, no. In 2023, Maryland law changed to eliminate adultery as a grounds for divorce. However, “irreconcilable differences” remains as a ground, and infidelity could certainly be used to demonstrate that irreconcilable differences exist, meaning that adultery in Maryland divorce and child custody cases can still be part of the picture. The point of the change in the law was to simplify matters, although it also makes things more subjective. However, it is no longer necessary to prove adultery happened. This could make it easier for some people to file for divorce.

Divorce by mutual consent (no fault divorce) also exists, and in some cases you and your spouse might agree to separate after one of you has an affair.

Can Adultery Affect Property Division During Divorce in Maryland?

Typically, no. However, it’s possible for an affair to lead to “waste” of marital assets. This happens if the cheating spouse spends a lot of money on their extramarital partner. Only people with significant wealth are likely to be affected by this, but if it happens, the law in Maryland adds the value of that money to the cheating spouse’s assets when determining distribution. This means that their victim may get more of what remains.

However, this is rare. You can’t use adultery to “soak” your spouse for more money.

Does Adultery Affect Child Custody in Maryland?

No. Cheating on your spouse is not considered evidence you are a bad parent. However, if the children see something inappropriate or if they are somehow placed at risk (for example, if the extramarital partner hurts the kids), then that might be taken into account by the court. Also, if the person committed adultery because of substance abuse or mental health issues, those might be taken into account.

Does Adultery Affect Alimony in Maryland?

Even if your spouse cheats on you, you might still have to pay them alimony. However, the judge can take into account the circumstances of the separation when making decisions about alimony. The judge can’t prohibit a spouse from seeking alimony because they were unfaithful, nor can the judge award alimony just because somebody was cheated on. There are many other factors that the judge has to take into account, including the ability of the spouse to support themselves, the duration of the marriage, the ability of the paying spouse to continue to meet their own needs, etc.

Alimony in Maryland is typically temporary and is only meant to help the supported spouse get back on their feet. Permanent alimony is typically only awarded if one spouse is disabled or similar.

Do You Have to Prove Adultery in Maryland?

Since the law changed, no. You can cite it as an irreconcilable difference. However, proving adultery might impact the divorce settlement the court hands down. It, thus, might be worth providing some proof to the court. This does not mean you need to catch your spouse in the act, but you can cite more subtle things such as them being seen kissing a coworker, or another car showing up in the driveway when you are not home.

In short, adultery in Maryland divorce and child custody cases does not typically affect the settlement, but can under certain specific circumstances. If your spouse has cheated on you, you can no longer claim it as grounds for divorce, but can claim irreconcilable differences instead. If your spouse has been cheating and your marriage is breaking down as a result, you need a good divorce lawyer. Contact Petrelli Previtera to find out how we can help you.

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