Divorce is an incredibly stressful event in the lives of individuals and families. When adultery is a factor in the breakup of your marriage, this stress can increase dramatically. Although Florida's no-fault divorce laws no longer consider adultery to be grounds for divorce, adultery can be considered by judges when dividing marital assets, awarding alimony or making custody decisions.
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Grounds for Divorce
Florida is a no-fault divorce state, with only two grounds for divorce: irreconcilable differences or the mental incapacity of one of the spouses. Either you, or your spouse, can ask for a divorce on the basis of irreconcilable differences, though if either one of you disputes that the marriage is over, the court can order you both to enter counseling for, at most, three months.
One of the most difficult aspects of divorce is dividing the money, property and debt accumulated during your marriage. Florida is an "equitable distribution" state, which means that the courts take into consideration a number of factors when dividing your finances. These factors include the contributions made by you and your spouse to your financial situation during the marriage, your individual economic situations and how you each contributed to the education or career of the other. Another consideration is that of "dissipation of assets": If you or your spouse became involved with another partner during your marriage, the court may examine if, and how, you spent your money in support of that relationship. If the judge finds that either one of you spent family money on an adulterous affair, the judge may reduce the financial settlement awarded to the party who committed the dissipation.
Florida law recognizes that there are some situations in which one spouse needs continued support from their ex-spouse. Judges can use the fact of adultery in determining the amount of support, also known as alimony or maintenance, that a spouse receives. In general, judges award support to the spouse that needs it, regardless of marital behavior. But if a judge feels that a spouse's finances were negatively affected by the other spouse's adultery, the judge may award support on that basis.
Child custody disputes are perhaps the most painful in a divorce. Judges in Florida prioritize the best interests of the children above all else in making a custody decision. One consideration of the judge will be the "moral fitness" of you and your spouse. If either one of you committed adultery, a judge may want to have a better understanding of the circumstances so that she can make a better decision about custody matters. At the same time, moral fitness is just one of the criteria used by Florida judges to make custody decisions. Other factors, such as your relationship with the child, domestic violence issues, economic stability, and overall mental and physical health will also be considered.
It is easy to want to reduce the pain and stress of a divorce by dating before its finalization. But many divorce lawyers strongly advise against this. In addition to the emotional complications of starting a new relationship before you've been able to mourn the end of your marriage, issues of adultery and dissipation of assets could be raised in court. This can complicate your divorce and cost you time, money, and possibly, custody of your children. As such, it is a good idea to put off dating until your divorce is final.