How Does Adultery Affect Divorce in CA?

Some states once required that you have some type of grounds for filing for divorce. Today, every state follows a no-fault divorce law, meaning that you no longer must prove your spouse was at fault in some way – you only have to establish that you wish to end the marriage or that your spouse is incurably insane. Additionally, divorce does not have to be an agreement – if you wish to divorce, your spouse does not have to agree with you. Adultery was a commonly-cited reason for divorce in past years, but it is no longer necessary to prove your spouse cheated on you to secure a divorce.

Even though adultery isn’t against the law, an adulterous spouse may still have to deal with the consequences of his or her actions during divorce proceedings. If a judge determines that one spouse’s adultery had any type of measurable impact on the marriage in terms of finances or children, the judge may require the adulterous spouse to pay penalties or lose a portion of the divided property.

Property Distribution in California

In California, property that the couple shares is considered community property and (with a few exceptions) is usually divided equally. The logic behind this is that earning money and purchasing property form the marital estate. When the couple pays their electric bill, for instance, the funds typically come from a shared bank account. If one spouse uses money from the marital estate to the benefit of their infidelity (such as using money from a shared bank account to pay for a weekend stay at a hotel with a paramour), a judge will order the adulterous spouse to repay half of the amount spent as restitution.


In some cases, if one spouse was financially dependent on the other, the court may require the higher-earning spouse to pay alimony to the other spouse to ease his or her financial burden. In California, an adulterous spouse isn’t forced to pay alimony due to infidelity. Punitive damages are not awarded on this basis. Instead, alimony is only required based on the financial needs and abilities of the spouses.

Several factors influence alimony determinations, such as whether the spouses decide to cohabitate with new partners. A judge will consider all these factors when determining whether to award alimony payments or how much must be paid. If a judge decides that the lesser-earning spouse’s new living arrangements effectively ease his or her financial burden, the judge may lessen the amount of alimony.

Child Custody

In California, the priority in any divorce involving a child is to determine what would be best for him or her. California believes that every child should be able to maintain a close and healthy relationship with both parents.

Typically, adultery is not considered a factor when assessing a person’s parental capabilities. One spouse’s infidelity would only change this decision should his or her behavior affect the child. If the adultery had any type of adverse effects on a child, such as the adulterous spouse’s new partner abuses the child, a judge may determine that the parent’s new relationship is a danger to the child and adjust the custody arrangement accordingly.

Adultery is frowned upon by most people, but it’s not illegal. It must also interfere with the marriage or the married couple’s finances to have any effect on a divorce. As with any type of divorce case, an Orange County divorce attorney well-versed in divorce law will not only help the entire process move faster, but also help everyone involved to be more at ease with the legal concerns surrounding the divorce.