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How infidelity can lead to a poorly negotiated divorce settlement

If you follow the news at all, you may have heard about the hacking scandal involving the website Ashley Madison; a site which bills itself as a service catering to those looking to have an affair. For many Americans, news that the site had been hacked was less shocking than learning that such a site existed in the first place.

This is not to say that Ashley Madison is an obscure site in a dark corner of the web. In fact, some 37 million users had their personal data stolen by hackers - and those hackers have threatened to make the information public. Media outlets are already speculating about what kind of effect this could have on the stability of millions of marriages. Some believe that the divorce rate will spike when millions of people discover what their spouses have been up to.

Whether or not that prediction comes to pass, this story provides the opportunity to discuss the effects of infidelity on divorce (not just on marriage). It is commonly believed that innocent spouses have the upper hand in divorce proceedings and could get a larger settlement as a result. While this may be true in some cases, it is far from a guarantee. Many judges will try to settle divorce cases involving infidelity in the same way that they would settle a regular no-fault divorce.

That being said, infidelity does often have an impact on divorce proceedings, and it is likely to be a negative one. Divorce is a series of negotiations on important matters such as property division, child custody, retirement/pension division and spousal support. Such topics can be emotionally charged and difficult to discuss even when spouses part on relatively good terms. When infidelity has caused a great rift in the marriage, judgment can get clouded by strong emotions and both spouses may act in ways that are contrary to their own best interests.

If your spouse cheated on you, for instance, it may be tempting to litigate your revenge. You could fight over every possession, fight for more/less spousal support and attempt to drag proceedings out as long as possible. But in doing so, you would likely be hurting yourself financially as well. Any money spent on a protracted legal battle is money that cannot be used to rebuild your life post-divorce.

The pain and emotional turmoil of divorce are very real and should not be minimized. But if at all possible, these issues should not be worked out in the courtroom or at the negotiating table.

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Broomfield, CO 80020