Can Adultery Affect Alimony Under California Law?

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Spousal support Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsCalifornia has a no-fault divorce law 

California was the first state in the 1970s to implement the concept of no-fault. This means that you can file for a divorce in two possible cases. Either, you state that your marriage has irretrievably broken down or your spousal partner is incurably insane. You won’t need to specify the exact details or prove them in court. Both partners also don’t need to arrive at a consensus regarding the common grounds for divorce. It is enough that one partner wants to end it.

Infidelity or adultery hasn’t been defined by law but most agree that when one partner has a sexual liaison with his/her lover without the consent of his spouse, he has committed a grave indiscretion. However, it can’t be a ground for divorce alone.

However, infidelity can have some impact on the alimony that the dependent or the poorer spouse can demand. Since California is a community property state, whatever property is acquired by the couple during the period of marriage, will be equally distributed among the partners. Both have equal rights, except on properties acquired through inheritance or received as a gift.

Hence, if the wronged partner can prove that the cheating partner has spent a certain portion of the joint income on his/her lover, a judge can accept the submission and order him/her to reimburse the amount that was spent on the other person, to his spouse.

Infidelity is not a punishable offense in California 

California courts can’t order a partner to pay a certain sum of money as compensation to the wronged partner because of his/her misconduct because that would mean that the court is punishing him/her for the “offense”. The soul ground for the alimony or the spousal support would be the financial need of the wronged or financially weaker partner. The court would try to ascertain that the spouse gets enough support so as to reasonably maintain his/her lifestyle that they had during the marriage. They may also look at the ability of the spouse to support themselves and their employability. The ability of the paying spouse to support would also be analyzed and brought under the scanner.

However, if the receiving spouse starts dating or cohabiting another person before the divorce is finalized, then according to Section 4343 of the California Family Code, the court may reduce or altogether withdraw the alimony as it sees that the financial dependency has decreased.

Frequent adultery or cheating may, however, have an impact on the custody rights of a person and may be a ground that leads him to lose his rights to keep his/her child.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation