When Does Adultery Matter in a Wisconsin Divorce?
Finding out your spouse has been unfaithful can be devastating on multiple levels. Without warning, the affair can set off a chain of events that will ultimately end in divorce. From the injured spouse's perspective, it may seem like their ex’s infidelity will be the single most crucial issue during divorce. However, during a Wisconsin divorce case, the court will only consider evidence of an extramarital relationship in a limited number of circumstances. If your divorce involves infidelity, you will want to know: When does adultery matter in a Wisconsin divorce?
Adultery and Wisconsin Divorce
Wisconsin is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means that the court does not need to determine that one party was at fault for the end of the marriage in order to grant a divorce. Instead, under Wisconsin law, all that is required for the court to find that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Although infidelity is not a legal ground for a Wisconsin divorce, that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be considered during your case.
Earlier this year, Nicole Young filed for divorce from Andre Young, her husband of twenty-four years. Nicole alleged that Andre, better known as music mogul “Dr. Dre,” had extramarital affairs with three different women during their marriage. The famed recording artist has approximately $800 million in assets, and the couple is currently at odds over the validity and enforceability of a premarital agreement. Dre’s alleged mistresses filed motions against being deposed by Nicole’s attorney regarding the affairs and marital funds Dre allegedly spent on them during their respective relationships. Counsel for the women claimed that their testimony would be irrelevant in the case because California is a no-fault divorce state. However, a California court recently rejected the argument ruling that “each of [the women] may have information relevant to the issue of temporary support and fees as well as the…enforceability of the alleged premarital agreement.” The three women were ordered to appear to be deposed, and each was fined $2,500 for objecting to the depositions without substantiation.
As the Young case demonstrates, even in a no-fault divorce state, extramarital relationships may be relevant during a case. In Wisconsin, when considering how to divide marital assets during divorce, the court can examine whether a spouse used marital funds to pay for expenses related to the affair. If there is evidence that your former spouse used marital resources to buy extravagant gifts for their extramarital partner, the court could award you more of the community assets to make up for these expenditures. Additionally, if your ex's use of your marital assets placed you at a significant financial disadvantage, the court could consider this fact when deciding to award spousal maintenance.
If you have minor children, the court will be considering multiple factors to make child custody and placement decisions. If there is evidence that your ex's affair has harmed your children or that they would be negatively impacted by being around the affair partner, it could affect their custodial or child placement rights. One factor the court will take into consideration is “the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent or parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest.” It can also examine “[w]hether the mental or physical health of a party, minor child, or other person living in a proposed custodial household negatively affects the child's intellectual, physical, or emotional well-being." Wisconsin family courts are also free to look at any factor that is relevant to a child’s best interest.
Consult with an Experienced Wisconsin Family Law Attorney
Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience helping clients evaluate their circumstances and consider their choices during and after Wisconsin divorce. She understands the complexities of divorce when infidelity is involved and can help you evaluate your case and navigate the process. Come in, and let us take a “first look” at your situation so you can figure out your next steps. Please call us today to set up a time to meet.