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Your Cheating Spouse: How Adultery Affects a California Divorce

Paul Nathan
San Francisco Divorce & Custody Lawyer Representing Women Exclusively

Adultery affects more than half of all U.S. marriages. For many spouses, cheating is a deal-breaker. The act of cheating is a painful betrayal of trust, but for California divorce courts, the issue is usually irrelevant.

California is a no-fault divorce state. This means that divorces in California are based on “irreconcilable differences,” not on what a spouse did or didn’t do. Child custody and financial decisions such as child support and spousal support are usually based on factors other than a spouse’s behavior.

Compensation and Division of Assets

However, there are exceptions. While adultery does not affect the division of community property in California, a spouse is entitled to compensation if community property was used to fund an affair.

What does this mean? Suppose your husband had an affair. He took money from your joint account to pay for hotel rooms, meals, and expensive gifts. You can ask the court to consider this a misappropriation of marital funds. The court may order your spouse to repay up to half that amount—with interest. That amount will be included in your divorce settlement.

Can you be repaid for your emotional distress? Sort of. In some cases, it is reasonable to ask a cheating spouse to help pay for counseling or therapy. The cost of ongoing therapy may be included as part of your spousal support agreement

Child Custody

Adultery rarely affects child custody, but there is one big exception. If a child is inappropriately exposed to sexual behavior, evidence of that behavior may be used in determining child custody. 

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The final issue is sexually transmitted diseases. Many women become aware of an affair when they test positive for an STD. When a woman catches an STD because of her husband’s infidelity, she has a right to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages. The damages may be consolidated with the divorce settlement.

Contact Attorney Paul Nathan for Answers About Your Husband's Affair and Filing for Divorce

So, although adultery cannot be considered grounds for divorce, a San Francisco divorce lawyer may be able to use the fact of the affair to help you get a better California divorce settlement.

To schedule an appointment to discuss your divorce, contact The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan at 415-341-1144.

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