I’ve handled hundreds of divorces in 20+ years of practicing law, and I would guess at least half of them involve some sort of infidelity. If not outright adultery, then at least clear evidence of one spouse becoming involved in an extra-marital “emotional affair”.
I do apologize for the mildly click-baity title, and I do sympathize if you find yourself in this situation. But please listen to my words, and take them to heart. If you do, I promise it will save you a lot of money, and maybe your sanity. But the reality is: OTHER THAN YOU, NO ONE CARES.
Under Georgia law, there are thirteen statutorily authorized grounds for divorce. The last one, that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”, is commonly referred to as the “no fault” ground – the only “proof” you need is the testimony of one spouse that the marriage is irretrievably broken, with no hope of reconciliation, which can be accomplished with a one-word answer to a single question while the plaintiff is under oath. The other grounds are all so-called “fault” grounds, requiring the plaintiff to prove something else. If you are in a different state, that state’s laws may be slightly different, but pretty much every state has a similar legal framework for divorce cases.
To be sure, adultery is one of the “fault” grounds. And if you prove that it happened, and that the adultery was the cause of the divorce, then under Georgia law it is well-settled that the “guilty” party cannot claim alimony from the other party. Williams v. Williams, 114 Ga. 772 (1902); Bryan v. Bryan, 242 Ga. 826 (1979). But adultery has no bearing on property division or child support, and unless there are some pretty egregious facts (like swinging from the chandelier with the paramour while the kids are in the room), it’s not going to affect custody or parenting time, either.
But what it CAN affect is your mental or emotional health. I get it – you are humiliated, and the other party should be humiliated, too, if not outright punished. But the judge is not going to do that, and all but the greenest of lawyers know this. Here’s what you can and should do:
- Find a counselor as soon as you can. And I don’t mean someone who paid $100 to take an online course and become “certified” somehow – I mean someone with clinical experience who can help you process your emotions in a safe and healthy way.
- If you suspect, but don’t “know” – resist the urge to “prove it”. If you suspect, that should be enough to make you pause and consider whether you should remain married to this person. The law favors marriage, and so do I, and if you want to try to make the marriage work, then talk with your spouse about going to marriage counseling. But the need to “prove” infidelity is a great way to waste thousands of dollars on an investigator – and honestly, what will that accomplish that benefits you?
- You may have friends or family members in your orbit who are feeding the emotional beast dwelling within you. Very often, these people are well-intentioned – they are empathizing with you, supporting you, sharing your pain. And let’s be honest – that feels good. But resist the urge to let them goad you into staying in an emotionally destructive place. See #1 – that is the healthiest way to move forward.
- If you have spoken to or even hired an attorney, make sure he or she is helping you make good business decisions. Your attorney should not be stoking the emotional fire that may be burning inside you. If your attorney is fanning those flames instead of helping you move forward, you should seriously consider switching attorneys.
I have seen parties spend years, and millions of dollars, fighting a divorce case that everyone around them – family, friends, advisors, attorneys – said should have been settled with a fraction of the time and money spent. These people are hell-bent on “punishing” the other spouse. Please believe me when I say, it never works out that way. It is the party invested in the fight who ends up unhappy and dissatisfied, even years after the divorce is finally concluded.
Don’t let this happen to you. If you need help, please contact us right away.