My spouse had an affair: can I still trust them for purposes of my divorce?
When you are divorcing because of your spouse's affair, it can be difficult to get your bearings. The initial shock can distort your perceptions and make you question every moment of your entire relationship. After this kind of intimate betrayal, you will probably wonder if you can still trust anything your spouse says or does for divorce purposes.
The Reasons for the Affair
Extramarital affairs can happen for a number of reasons. On the surface, when your husband or wife has an affair, it may seem like they did it because they are weak, immoral, selfish, and unwilling to honor their commitment to your marriage. Their behavior may make you feel that they will put their own needs above yours during the divorce. However, the reasons for affairs are not always this straightforward. Sometimes, a partner may stray due to a lack of intimacy in the marriage that has built up over the years. The affair may be a symptom of a strained marriage that has been fading for a long time, and not necessarily a reflection of your ex's unwillingness to work with you honestly during the divorce process. Remember, a new relationship could also happen when a couple has been separated for a long time with no resolution in sight. There may also be situations when extramarital relationships occur because spouses are just not right for one another. The unfaithful partner may feel guilt and pain about hurting their spouse but also recognize that he or she is never going to be happy in the relationship. While the betrayal may have been painful, it’s not always about being deceptive.
Wisconsin Law and Divorce
The law in Wisconsin is structured to be equitable. Wisconsin is a community property state, and the law presumes that, outside of certain exceptions, property and income brought to or acquired during a marriage belongs equally to both people. Wisconsin law does not consider who is responsible for the marriage ending when deciding to grant a divorce. When it comes to dividing marital property, the court can consider if one spouse used some of the couple’s shared assets to pay for their extramarital relationship expenses, and those expenditures can be recaptured. But otherwise, there is no “infidelity penalty” in the division of assets.
Divorce After an Affair Doesn’t Have to be Inequitable
Affairs can be hurtful and destructive to relationships, but they don't automatically mean that a couple can't divorce equitably and respectfully. By working with an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney, you can evaluate your circumstances and choose a divorce process that is appropriate for your situation. In some instances, Collaborative Divorce may be the right choice as this type of divorce eliminates conflict and encourages both sides to resolve their issues respectfully and cooperatively. Other situations may call for Divorce Mediation, where the two sides can work with a mediator to reach an agreement that conforms to their lives and preferences. You and your Wisconsin divorce attorney can review your case and determine which divorce process is best for your circumstances. Remember, an unfaithful spouse doesn’t mean dishonest for all purposes. It’s better to be objective about what really happened in your marriage before closing the door on the possibility of a low-conflict divorce process.
Divorce after an affair is never easy, but with the help of an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney, you can find the best process for you. Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is a trained Wisconsin attorney, Collaborative Attorney, and Mediator. She has extensive experience assisting clients before, during, and after Wisconsin divorce cases, and can help you understand your options. Call us today to set up a consultation so we can take a “first look” at your situation.