How Does Infidelity Affect Property Division?

White square with a gold border and the words “How does infidelity affect property division?” with the Freed Marcroft family law firm logo in the lower right corner.One of the questions we are asked at Freed Marcroft is how a spouse’s infidelity impacts property division in a Connecticut divorce.  Discovering that your spouse has been unfaithful can be emotionally devastating, and may lead you to the decision to end the marriage.

Connecticut law entitles you to a divorce that lets you start over. What is not so straightforward is to what degree infidelity affects property division

Read on to learn more.

Purpose of Property Division

Courts do not distribute assets to either spouse as “a reward for virtue or as a punishment for wrongdoing.”  Judges still have the authority to take infidelity into account when determining how property will be divided.  However, whether they will or not is another matter.

Factors That Affect Property Division in Connecticut

There is no formula for property division in Connecticut.  Instead, courts take several factors into consideration when determining asset distribution. Those factors include the duration of the marriage and the age, health, employability of both spouses, and “the cause for the breakdown of the marriage.” This may make adultery relevant if a spouse committed infidelity frequently or was having an affair with someone else at the time the divorce was filed.  Remember, though, while the court may consider the cause of the breakdown of the marriage, this is one of several factors the court considers and is very rarely a primary factor.

Timing of Infidelity

In order for fault to be considered in making alimony awards or distributing property, it must be the cause for the breakdown of the marriage.  Therefore, adultery or infidelity that occurs after the breakdown is less relevant, because it cannot have contributed to the breakdown of the marriage.  (That said, the court can consider post-breakdown behavior if its part of a pattern.)

Generally speaking, it is difficult to determine the date of the breakdown of the marriage.  Arguably, for the plaintiff, the latest possible date of the breakdown is likely the date on the divorce complaint.

Likelihood of Infidelity Having a Significant Impact of Property Division

Now, just because the court has the discretion to do this, doesn’t mean the court is likely to do this.  It isn’t.

It’s not hard to see why the serious emotional toll of infidelity leads some to overestimate its impact on property division.

The practical reality is that evidence of adultery rarely leads divorce judges to penalize a spouse financially.  In the rare times the court does, it’s generally in egregious cases and, even then, to a modest degree.  That said, when a spouse spent substantial marital funds on an affair, courts may make the non-offending spouse financially whole.

If, for example, your spouse ran up the balance on your joint credit cards or used marital funds to buy gifts for their boyfriend or girlfriend, their affair increased your liability and decreased the value of the marital estate.  A judge may opt to compensate you by awarding more property.

Introducing Evidence Post Divorce

Spouses can only introduce infidelity as evidence in favor of property division prior to the court finalizing their divorce decree. 

Next Steps

To start making a plan for your divorce, reach out.  Our first step at Freed Marcroft, the Goals & Planning Conference, is designed to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals.  We analyze those goals, plus the facts of your case, and present you with recommendations and options to move forward.

Schedule your Goals & Planning Conference today, or contact us either here or by phone at 860-560-8160.

Written by Meghan Freed