Ashley Madison’s infamous slogan may read “Life’s Too Short, Have an Affair,” but when affairs are revealed – as many were when the affairs website was hacked – it can change the landscape of a Texas divorce in a number of ways.
As Dallas Divorce Attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry explains, “If you’re dealing with an affair, you’re dealing with a higher level of betrayal, major trust issues, and likely a more painful divorce. In contrast, when a couple’s relationship has evolved into more of a roommate situation, where they’re just not in love with each other anymore, it’s sometimes easier to move on.”
So what happens when cheating comes to light in a Texas divorce? According to Christine, adultery affects Texas divorces in three significant ways:
1. The divorce process could drag on longer and ultimately cost more in attorney’s fees.
“You’ve got to wait for the non-cheating spouse to start healing before he or she will be ready to entertain settlement offers reasonably. The non-cheating spouse needs to be far along in the grief process and approaching acceptance to be able to make a deal and move on with his or her life. When there is an affair in play, that can take a long time,” says Christine.
It can also take longer to go through the divorce process if technology experts, private investigators and counselors are brought into the case. According to Christine, “Counseling may be necessary, which can take time, and if you plan to fight it out in court, you might not be able to get a court date right away either. Plus, depositions may be necessary, including that of the cheating spouse’s mistress or lover.”
2. The cheating spouse may walk away with less of a divorce settlement in Texas.
“Most people believe that Texas is a 50-50 state, but it’s actually a just and right division state. Part of what figures into the just and right division are fault grounds, and in a Texas divorce, adultery is considered a fault ground,” says Christine.
In Texas, if the adultery is alleged and proven, it can be taken into consideration in regard to a just and right division, and the cheating spouse may walk away with less when it comes to the property settlement.
Per Christine, “It isn’t uncommon to see the cheating spouse walk away with 40 percent and the non-cheating spouse walk away with 60 percent, or for a 45-55 split to occur.”
That doesn’t mean these couples are required to include adultery as a fault ground in the divorce pleadings.
As Christine explains, “We actually see adultery in a lot of cases, but people don’t always include that in the pleading. Instead, many couples choose to enter the no-fault ground (discord or conflict of personalities), because they don’t want the fault grounds revealed in public records or don’t want to make the divorce contentious.
You won’t see adultery mentioned in the pleadings as often as you think, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t discussed. Even when a couple chooses not to air their dirty laundry in public, the non-cheating spouse may still be able to use the affair as leverage and end up with more than 50 percent.”
3. Cheating can jeopardize child custody and visitation in Texas.
While having an affair won’t affect what amount either party pays in child support, it can affect custody orders if the affair has affected the children somehow.
“If a cheating spouse and their lover sent nude photos of each other back and forth and those photos were accessible on the children’s iPad (thanks to the cloud), that may be an issue taken into consideration by the Court when determining who will be the primary parent and can affect child custody and visitation,” Christine says.
The judge may also take into consideration if the lover was brought into the child’s life or into the child’s home in some way.
“Say the mistress sleeps over at the house while the wife is away, or the cheating spouse introduces the child to the mistress on some other occasion. Or, if the lover is related to someone the child knows (a parent of a classmate or neighbor) or a teacher in the child’s school, the judge may view that as affecting the child negatively, which can affect child custody and visitation,” explains Christine.
Turn to a Reputable Texas Divorce Lawyer for Insight
If you believe your spouse is cheating, or you’ve been caught having an affair, and are contemplating a divorce, seek out professional advice. An experienced family law attorney in Texas can help you weigh your options.