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Will Cheating Affect My Divorce Case? 

William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law Oct. 26, 2022

Angry woman removing ring from handFew things can end a marriage more contentiously than infidelity. The betrayal felt by the spouse cheated arouses emotions of anger and hurt which can greatly impact how both spouses respond to attempts to agree on the terms of the dissolution.  

Assuredly, the spouse who has been cheated on will want to use the other spouse’s infidelity as leverage in the divorce. The question is, how does adultery affect divorce in Washington? 

William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law, has been helping clients deal with the issue of infidelity in divorce for more than 50 years. If you are considering divorce or have been served divorce papers in Grays Harbor County, Washington, including Montesano, Aberdeen, and Hoquiam, or in Pacific County, including South Bend and Raymond, reach out to family law attorney William E. Morgan

Is Adultery Grounds for Divorce in Washington State? 

Some states are fault states for divorce. Others provide for both fault and no-fault divorce. When fault is an issue, the behavior of each spouse, including infidelity, can be a looming factor in the dissolution of the union.  

Washington is strictly a no-fault state for divorce. In simple terms, a marriage needs only to be “irretrievably broken” for a judge to grant a dissolution. How it came to be broken has no legal bearing on the divorce itself. Adultery can, however, factor into some terms of the divorce in some situations.  

How Might Adultery Factor into My Divorce in Washington? 

Washington law specifically prohibits the court’s ability to use adultery as a factor in awarding spousal maintenance, or “alimony.” The conduct of neither spouse is a consideration. The main consideration is the need of one spouse to receive maintenance and the ability of the other spouse to pay it.  

Adultery may, however, be a corollary factor in the division of marital assets and debts, as well as in issues related to child custody and child support.  

In Washington, marital assets and debts are divided equally between the spouses. Community property and marital debts are separated from property that is strictly separate and owned by only one spouse. Then, the division of assets is subject to a 50/50 split. That said, if a cheating spouse spent significant sums of marital assets or incurred marital debt to finance the affair, such as on travel and gifts, the judge can award the other spouse more than a strict 50/50 share of the assets and less than a strict 50/50 share of the debts.  

Adultery can also factor into the judge’s consideration of which parent is more suitable to have primary custody of the children of the marriage. If the court believes the cheating spouse’s behavior has worked against the best interests of the children, it can consider that in its deliberations. Because the parent with primary custody of the children would receive child support from the other parent, the infidelity impacts that as well.  

How Does Living with Someone Else During the Divorce Affect It? 

Even if both spouses agree to divorce and are in the process of getting one, cohabitating with an affair partner is likely to affect the division of assets and child custody. Marital assets and debts are shared until the date of dissolution. Therefore, a spouse living with someone else is spending community property on someone outside the marriage.  

Likewise, the spouse being cheated on may be able to make a compelling argument that the other spouse’s cohabitation is not a healthy situation in the best interests of their shared children.  

How Skilled Advocacy Can Help 

In some cases, adultery factors into a Washington divorce. In others, it does not. Whether you have cheated on your spouse, or your spouse has cheated on you, you need a family law attorney to represent your best interests throughout the divorce process. William E. Morgan has represented clients in Grays Harbor County and Pacific County, Washington, on both sides of this issue. Everyone deserves experienced and compassionate legal representation. Call William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law, today to get the representation you deserve.