Does Cheating Impact a Divorce Settlement?

Does Cheating Impact a Divorce Settlement?


Divorce can be an emotionally painful process. When an extramarital affair is part of the picture, it can be particularly traumatic. As difficult as it can be, it is important to understand your legal rights in the divorce process and the potential impact of adultery on the proceedings.

Wisconsin is a “no fault” divorce state

Wisconsin is a “no fault” divorce state. This means that couples are not required to provide evidence or testify in court as to why the marriage is not working. If you or your spouse believe that your marriage is irreparable and the judge agrees, then the court will issue a divorce order. Wisconsin courts do not consider whether adultery — or any other kind of fault — was a contributing factor to the marriage failing. Why a marriage failed is not a consideration; it only matters that the marriage did, in fact, fail.

Adultery and alimony

In Wisconsin, alimony is referred to as “spousal maintenance”. It is basically the money that one spouse pays to the other during the divorce process and after the divorce is final. Spousal maintenance is designed to provide the lower-income spouse with financial support and address any great disparity in the spouses’ standards of living post-divorce.

Wisconsin judges consider a number of factors in deciding whether to award alimony, the amount of alimony, and the duration. While judges have significant leeway in making this determination, the decision must be fair and reasonable, and consider several elements including but not limited to:

  • How long the couple was married
  • Age of the spouses
  • Physical and emotional health of the spouses
  • Division of property
  • Spouse’s level of education
  • Earning capacity of receiving spouse

Extramarital affairs are not one of the factors that may be considered in determining alimony. Wisconsin does not permit judges to consider any marital misconduct when making decisions concerning alimony. Alimony is not meant to punish a spouse for their behavior; it is designed to provide financial support so neither spouse becomes insolvent after the divorce. Marital misconduct – including an extramarital affair — may, however, have an impact on child custody determinations.

Have more questions? Our experienced Wisconsin divorce attorneys can help

Marriages fail for a number of reasons, including a spouse’s extramarital affair. If adultery is an aspect of your divorce, you may be wondering what your rights are regarding your divorce settlement or child custody arrangements. We can help. Bandle & Zaeske LLP is a Milwaukee family law firm with a skilled, dedicated staff, experienced in all elements of divorce, including spousal support, child custody, visitation, and other matters. Our Wisconsin family lawyers understand the personal nature of divorce, and the emotional toll it can take on couples. We are with you every step of the way throughout the divorce process. To meet with us for a confidential consultation, contact our office at 414-359-142 or online to schedule an appointment.

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