< Call

What Happens in a Divorce When a Spouse Cheats? How Cheating Can Impact Your Divorce Settlement

what happens in a divorce when a spouse cheats

Going through a divorce is difficult enough without having to deal with the betrayal of a cheating spouse. Unfortunately, adultery is one of the leading causes of divorce in South Carolina. When infidelity enters the picture, it can significantly impact your divorce proceedings and settlement. But with an experienced divorce attorney on your side, you can protect your rights and work toward the best possible outcome.

At Steele Family Law, we know that divorces involving cheating spouses are often more contentious. There are usually more issues to sort through and facts to uncover. We have helped many clients successfully navigate these sensitive situations and come out of them with favorable resolutions. By understanding how adultery affects divorce in South Carolina, you can prepare yourself and make informed decisions during this challenging transition.

Adultery as Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina

South Carolina is one of few states that still allows fault-based divorces on grounds like adultery and physical cruelty. This means that if you can provide evidence that your spouse cheated, you can file for divorce on grounds of adultery specifically. You’ll need to present proof like photos, texts, emails, credit card receipts, or testimony from a private investigator verifying the affair took place. Witness statements from people who knew about the cheating can also serve as evidence.

The key is having solid proof that your spouse had sexual relations with someone else during your marriage. Suspicions and circumstantial evidence usually aren’t enough to prove adultery in court. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you gather the right kind of evidence securely and privately. We can also request forensic analysis of your spouse’s devices and accounts to uncover any smoking gun facts.

Grounds like adultery can sometimes help a case proceed more quickly to trial. So, if you have iron-clad proof and want to end the marriage, filing on grounds of adultery may help speed up the divorce process.

How an Affair Could Impact Alimony and Property Division

When dividing up assets and determining alimony, South Carolina judges have a lot of discretion. The court will divide marital property equitably but not necessarily equally. The circumstances of each case play a significant role. If one spouse can show the other squandered or hid marital assets due to the affair, the judge may award them a larger share.

Adultery can also impact alimony or spousal support awards. In particularly egregious cases where adultery is proven, the court may rule that the unfaithful spouse forfeits their right to collect spousal support. But more often, the judge will factor adultery into an alimony award without making an all-or-nothing ruling.

Overall, decisions around property and alimony are complex, but judicially proven adultery does give the judge more discretion to account for the misconduct of a cheating spouse during the divorce process.

Custody Concerns When a Parent Commits Adultery

If minor children are involved, both parents will want to know how infidelity could impact the child custody arrangement. Rest assured that South Carolina family courts always put the child’s best interests first when awarding custody. The court won’t punish a parent by restricting custody based on adultery alone.

However, judges may consider adultery as one factor in assessing parental fitness and the ability to provide stability. Multiple affairs or bringing affair partners around children can demonstrate poor moral character and judgment. A healthy, caring home environment is a priority.

If you believe your spouse’s infidelity makes them an unfit parent, be prepared to show how the behavior endangered or harmed the children. Simply proving adultery occurred may not be enough.

Our attorneys can help you gather additional evidence and make your case effectively.

No matter who committed adultery, we advise keeping the details shielded from the children. Discussing the affair in their presence can be psychologically damaging. Our attorneys can advise you on structuring a parenting plan that transitions the kids smoothly between households with minimal disruption.

Gathering Evidence of the Affair

Suspecting an affair but lacking definitive proof can be agonizing. If you believe your spouse may be unfaithful, taking quiet steps to collect evidence is crucial, like the following:

  1. Consult a private investigator. A reputable PI has techniques to obtain photographic or video evidence if adultery is happening. Their skills can secure proof even if your spouse is careful.
  2. Secure hard evidence: Photos, emails, texts, and credit card statements proving the sexual relationship speaks volumes.
  3. Track your spouse’s activities: Log whereabouts, watch for odd purchases and unexplained absences or travel, and note cell phone calls and online activity.
  4. Check financial statements. Unexplained charges at hotels, restaurants, jewelry stores, or ATMs may indicate misuse of marital assets to fund an affair.
  5. Note routine changes. Sudden increased attention to appearance, more late nights out, heightened secrecy around devices, or unusual defensiveness when questioned warrant suspicion.
  6. Use legal discovery. Once you file for divorce, your attorney can formally request relevant records and digital communications.
  7. Document early. Photograph or copy any evidence you uncover in case your spouse later deletes it. The more credible proof of adultery you can collect, the better your chances of a favorable divorce outcome.

Any documentation of the affair could significantly influence divorce proceedings.

Protecting Yourself During the Divorce

Discovering a spouse’s affair can spur intense emotions. It is absolutely devastating, especially when cheating shatters an otherwise happy marriage. But as you consult with divorce lawyers and contemplate your next steps, we urge you to think strategically. Acting rashly or tipping your hand too soon gives the adulterous spouse a chance to conceal assets, silence affair partners, and cover their tracks. Moving forward calmly helps protect your rights.

To safeguard your interests, it is important to do the following:

  • Consult an attorney promptly. Do not let your spouse know you are talking to a lawyer until you have retained counsel on your side. An experienced family law attorney can advise you on gathering evidence and securing assets in preparation for divorce.
  • Open separate accounts. Quietly open individual bank accounts and credit cards in your name only for personal use. Do not make large asset transfers yet.
  • Secure shared records. Make copies of joint tax returns, financial statements, and any proof of assets so your spouse cannot destroy or alter the originals.
  • Maintain the status quo for now. Avoid changing insurance coverage, healthcare plans, beneficiaries, or other dependencies until your lawyer advises otherwise.
  • Consider therapy. The emotional trauma of infidelity is immense. Speaking with a counselor helps you process the grief and betrayal in a healthy way as you move forward.
  • Prioritize your children’s well-being. Maintain normalcy and stability for kids if possible. Do not discuss adult matters like cheating in front of them.

Being betrayed by adultery adds another layer of complexity to an already difficult divorce, but working with trusted South Carolina family law attorneys can help protect your rights and uncover critical evidence when a spouse has cheated. Above all, know that you have experienced partners in your corner. We have helped many clients achieve favorable settlements even in the most challenging adultery situations. Though divorce often feels lonely, you don’t have to endure this path alone. Justice, healing, and a new beginning await.

Don’t Face This Alone – Contact Steele Family Law Today

Discovering a spouse’s infidelity and proceeding with divorce is traumatic. You will likely feel overwhelmed and unsure how to move forward during this challenging transition. But you don’t have to shoulder this alone.

The compassionate team at Steele Family Law understands the devastation of adultery. We will walk this path with you, providing caring counsel and vigorously protecting your rights. Our attorneys have successfully helped many clients in South Carolina gather evidence of affairs and secure favorable divorce terms.

Please contact us to schedule a completely confidential consultation. We will answer your questions, address your concerns, and start putting our robust experience to work for you. Though the road ahead seems daunting, brighter days are coming. You have strong advocates ready to stand by your side each step of the way.

Author Bio

Greg Steele is CEO and Managing Partner of Steele Family Law, a South Carolina estate planning and family law firm. With years of experience in practicing law, he has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including divorce, child custody and support, estate planning, probate, and other legal cases.

Greg received his Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia and is a member of the South Carolina Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among Anderson’s Top 20 Under 40 in 2022.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google