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Does Adultery Matter in a Massachusetts Divorce?

If you’ve been accused of adultery or if your spouse has been unfaithful, it’s important to know how this might impact divorce proceedings. While adultery may certainly lead to the end of a marriage, will it impact the outcome of the divorce as well, such as property division, custody, and alimony? Let’s take a closer look at whether adultery matters in a Massachusetts divorce and how it may affect your case.

Adultery & Fault-Based Divorce

The first way that adultery may impact divorce is the filing itself. Adultery is one of the potential grounds that a spouse can cite when filing for divorce in Massachusetts. This is known as a fault-based divorce. While you can choose to cite adultery as grounds for your divorce, you are not required to do so.

There are actually some advantages to no-fault divorce, primarily due to the fact that citing fault will require proof of adultery. That can become public record, making a fault-based divorce less private and more complicated than a no-fault divorce. You can avoid the publicity, cost, and time associated with a contested or fault based-divorce by choosing an alternative method of resolution such as mediation or collaborative divorce – even if adultery occurred.

Choosing whether to cite adultery as grounds for your Massachusetts divorce is a decision you should not take lightly. That is why we recommend discussing this, along with all other aspects of your divorce, with your attorney.

How Adultery Impacts Custody, Support & Property

Another issue divorcing spouses want to know about is the impact that adultery may have on child custody, child support, alimony, and property division. These are all issues that must be resolved in a divorce, and they can become quite challenging to agree upon.

While this may vary on a case-by-case basis:

  • Adultery generally does not impact the division of property and assets in a divorce, as this is determined through the process of equitable distribution in Massachusetts. If it can be proven, however, that marital assets were used in the commission of adultery, that could affect how property is divided.
  • Child custody and support are usually not influenced by adultery unless a spouse’s act or acts of infidelity went against the child’s best interests. The courts will make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child, and support will vary depending on custody.
  • The payment of alimony can potentially be influenced by adultery if there was a significant difference in earning capacity between spouses. This, however, will depend on all the other circumstances of the case.

The Emotional Impact of Adultery on a Divorce

The biggest impact adultery has on most divorces is emotional. Learning that your spouse has been unfaithful can bring about overwhelming feelings of resentment, anger, grief, and betrayal. It can seem impossible to overcome these feelings, and yet already complicated and emotionally driven issues like custody and support will need to be decided. This can make resulting divorce proceedings more challenging for both sides. When a marriage breaks down because of adultery, it can be more difficult to reach agreements on these issues, sometimes leading to a contested divorce.

Is Adultery Against the Law in Massachusetts?

Adultery was considered a crime in Massachusetts up until 2018 when the statute was repealed. Prior to its repeal, adultery was a felony offense punishable by up to 3 years in state prison, up to 2 years in jail, or a fine of up to $500. Even before the statute was repealed, it was highly unlikely that any person would face criminal charges for adultery. There were rare prosecutions, the last of which occurred in 1983 when a married woman was discovered having sexual intercourse with a man other than her husband while inside a parked van. The court sentenced each party to a $50 fine; no jail or prison time was required.

Talk to Our Massachusetts Divorce Attorneys

If you are considering filing for divorce because you have been accused of adultery or learned that your spouse was cheating, you are facing a challenging road ahead. Miller Law Group, P.C. is here to help you through. As experienced Massachusetts divorce attorneys, we know how to deal with situations involving infidelity and can help with any type of divorce. This means we can take whatever approach is in your best interests and will lead to the best result for you and your family. Your post-divorce future can be bright, and we are here to make it so. Call (508) 502-7002 today to learn more!

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