Adultery is wrong and hurtful, but adultery is not usually a huge factor in most Texas divorce cases. While some judges may have “old fashioned” harsh reactions to adultery, most realize that cheating is usually symptomatic of a troubled marriage and not the sole cause of a divorce. Unlike most people, divorce judges hear and see the worst of human behavior on a daily basis. A simple affair may be shocking to the regular citizen, but to a divorce judge it is run-of-the-mill routine. Of course, there are some situations, such as cheating with the teenage babysitter or your brother-in-law, which would raise the eyebrows of even the most jaded divorce judge.
In the past, you had to prove adultery, cruelty or abandonment to get a divorce. Now, because either spouse can get a divorce without a particular reason, proving adultery is far less important. Texas law still allows a spouse to allege adultery as grounds for divorce; however a finding of adultery really has no legal significance unless it is a reason to award more of the community estate to the victimized spouse.All divorcing spouses should be aware that Texas defines adultery as sex with someone who is not your spouse, even if it is after separation. People are still considered married after they file for divorce up until the day the judge signs the divorce decree. For example, a man who files for divorce and starts dating a woman four months after he moves out is still technically committing adultery in the eyes ofthe court.
Does Adultery Influence a Judge’s Decision?
A divorce judge in Texas has great discretion in dividing a couple’s community property. The judge can divide the marital estate 50-50 or award 70% to one spouse and 30% to the other. Commonly, the most important factor in making this decision is the income history and income potential of the spouses. For example, a plastic surgeon may make 30 times more than her gardener husband, and, as a result, the husband may get more of the community property. Adultery or other reasons why the couple is getting a divorce may be considered by the judge in deciding how to divide property. But, for most divorce judges, adultery simply does not play a very prominent role. Of course, every client needs to ask an experienced divorce attorney about the particular tendencies of the judge assigned to his or her case. In addition, proof (or even strong circumstantial evidence) of adultery can often provide strong leverage for a good settlement because the spouse who has cheated may not want the affair to be publicly exposed.
Letting Go and Moving Forward
A spouse who has been cheated on still feels terrible even if the adultery does not matter that much to the judge. The goal in every case is to settle the case quickly and fairly. However, this may not be possible if one of the spouses is really upset and not prepared to act nicely or think rationally. The victim of adultery can usually benefit greatly from professional counseling.Anger and bitterness will ultimately hurt the victim whose trust has been betrayed. It really does no good at all for the victim of adultery to seek revenge by doing things such as calling the other spouse’s family or boss to tell them about the cheating or to cause trouble for the “other woman” (or “other man”). Both people involved in a marriage scarred by adultery have to look inside themselves, ask why it happened and eventually consider forgiveness or at least figure out how to move on emotionally.
Safeguarding Your Children
It is important to keep these adult issues away from the children. A wife may be furious that her husband has cheated on her, but she should not tell her young children what their father has done. This advice to keep adultery away from the children also applies to the spouse who is having the extramarital relationship. Every lawyer and every judge will tell divorcing spouses to keep new boyfriends and girlfriends away from the children until well after the divorce is over.
Proof of an Affair
Proving adultery can be as simple as getting the other spouse to admit it. Strong indications of an affair may include: numerous phone calls, text messages or emails to someone of the opposite sex that are unjustified by work demands; unusual changes in schedule; unexplained absences; and acting secretive. A spouse who consistently deletes his or her cell phone’s call history or text messages may also be up to something.It is important for a spouse who suspects adultery to avoid breaking the law by illegally intercepting phone calls, using a tracking device on a car or using electronic spying to intercept text messages. It is also smart to consult with an experienced divorce attorney before wasting money on a private investigator to follow their spouse. A spouse who has cheated will be told by their attorney to tell the truth about their affair and should expect to be asked this question in court or in written interrogatories. The other side can always subpoena the boyfriend or girlfriend to face questioning under oath.
Honesty is the Best Policy
Clients must tell their attorneys the truth and be honest about any affairs or other bad behavior during the marriage. It is not a good thing for your attorney to be surprised in court by information that you did not share with him or her.Finally, it is vital to understand that adultery can be forgiven and that some loving marriages do survive cheating. Successful marriages are built on trust, real affection and shared effort. However, it takes a lot of work and commitment to rebuild that trust once it has been destroyed by an affair.