Sep 2, 2020
Fueling the Fire: Infidelity and Divorce, Part 1
Navigating an Emotional Minefield
After living through my own divorce and helping thousands of people through theirs, I have learned many important lessons never taught in law school or in continuing legal studies.
One of these lessons is how difficult it is for us as human beings to understand and navigate through the emotional pain, fear, anxiety and anger that are a normal part of this life transition.
When I am dealing with clients as a divorce-mediator, I do my best to help them stay focused on putting the painful past behind and move forward to better days ahead. I encourage my clients to work with me to settle their legal and financial matters while they work with a therapist to understand and navigate through their challenging emotions. Those who follow this advice seem to remain focused on making good legal and financial decisions. Those who don’t often struggle much more.
Those who struggle the most to manage their emotional challenges are often involved in situations when one person is in a relationship with a new partner before, during or even after divorce.
Does Cheating Affect the Financial Settlement?
Marital stress or boredom can lead to an extramarital relationship. In the beginning, each person feeds off the excitement and positivity of the new partner. Even in marriages that have a very low grade of happiness for both spouses, an “affair” can be like dumping gallons of gas on what is already a bonfire of emotions.
When one person is having an affair, the other may feel a just punishment includes a larger financial settlement. My job is to help them understand the law. This means telling them that there is very little impact under divorce law regarding marital affairs. The only place it is even referenced in the vast volumes of divorce law is under alimony law. It is one of 14 factors that may be a bar to receiving alimony; however, it is rarely considered.
Sometimes the guilt and shame will lead the “cheater” to give up more than they otherwise would have to. However, guilt can have a pretty short “shelf life”, so regret often follows. The ‘cheater’ may find it a struggle to keep a roof over their head and be tempted to head back into court litigation to address the problem.
What About the Children?
Beyond the money settlement there is an even greater concern when there is an affair. Children of divorce are encouraged to disparage the cheating partner as the one who is responsible for breaking up their “happy” family. The offended partner can successfully transfer their pain to the child, so it becomes difficult for them to continue a loving relationship with their other parent. Parent alienation not only robs the child of a parent, it creates lifelong harm to a child’s wellbeing.
The bottom line is that extra marital affairs add a lot of fuel to the fire of divorce that can burn deeply and cause long lasting harm.
©2020 Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation