It’s no secret that a lot of marriages are destroyed because of infidelity. In some states, adultery is a reason for a family court to deny a dependent or lower-earning spouse the alimony they would otherwise be entitled to, but is that the case in New York? If a spouse cheats, does that mean he or she is automatically disqualified from receiving alimony? We’ll answer that in a minute.
When couples divorce, it’s not uncommon for the lower-earning spouse to ask for spousal support (temporary support while thedivorce is pending) and spousal maintenance (alimony awarded after the divorce is final). The spouses can agree on an amount to be paid, or it can already be addressed in a prenuptial agreement. If there is no such agreement and the higher-earning spouse fights it, a judge will decide if spousal support and/or maintenance should be awarded.
When making a decision, the judge will consider the following factors:
- The age and health of both parties.
- Each spouse’s assets and liabilities.
- The dependent spouse’s need for alimony.
- The higher-earning spouse’s ability to pay alimony.
- The length of the marriage.
- The quality of life established during the marriage.
- Where the couple’s children will live.
- Each spouse’s earning capacity.
- The tax consequences of alimony on each spouse.
- Contributions by the dependent spouse as a homemaker.
- Any wasteful dissipation of marital assets.
If you notice, “adultery” was not on the list. This is because for the most part, New York judges do not consider adultery when deciding whether or not to make an alimony award, nor does it typically impact property division.
Alimony is not meant to punish a spouse for misconduct. Rather, it’s meant to help the supported spouse get back on their feet and become self-sufficient. It’s also supposed to prevent a spouse from becoming penniless because of the divorce.
However, there is one exception. If the cheating spouse used a substantial portion of the marital assets on their paramour; for example, on vacations, a new car, jewelry, an apartment, or paying their boyfriend or girlfriend’s bills, the judge can find that it was a “wasteful dissipation of marital assets” and in effect the marital misconduct can affect the alimony award.