Adultery in New Jersey - Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

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Most would agree that adultery is morally reprehensible conduct that can end marriages. Scorned spouses often expect to use their spouse’s adulterous behavior as a weapon in the divorce process, however, that is not always possible. In the context of alimony, not all states allow judges to consider a spouse’s adultery in awarding alimony.

As many spouses know, cheating often has consequences. Aside from the effect of cheating on the marriage itself, cheating may affect the divorce process and any alimony awards received by the spouses. Each state varies on how exactly adultery will affect an alimony award, and so this article is intended to clarify that issue for the state of New Jersey.

The Nature of Divorce in New Jersey

Before discussing whether adultery or cheating would affect an award of alimony or spousal support, the nature of divorce in New Jersey must be examined.New Jersey divorce law contains nine different grounds for divorce.1 Eight of the grounds for divorce in New Jersey are fault grounds for divorce, one of which is adultery.

About New Jersey Alimony Rules

New Jersey law contains an incredibly complex and lengthy alimony statute that is intended to guide Courts in making alimony determinations.2 In general, alimony is a series of periodic payments made for the support of a financially dependent spouse. While the alimony statute provides for a lengthy list of factors that courts should use in determining how much alimony should be awarded, the key factors are the financial needs of the dependent spouse and the financial ability of the non-dependent spouse to pay alimony.

In addition to standard permanent alimony, New Jersey Courts may also award limited duration alimony, rehabilitative alimony, and reimbursement alimony. Unlike permanent alimony which requires a court order to end, the need for one spouse to pay limited duration alimony will expire at a certain point of time. Rehabilitative and reimbursement alimony are both aimed at helping a financially dependent spouse transition into single life by either ordering payment for education or vocational skills training or ordering repayment of contributions to the marriage relationship.

The Effect of Adultery and Other For-Cause Grounds for Divorce on Alimony

In general, alimony in New Hampshire is a purely financial determination. As a result, marital misconduct such as adultery can only affect an alimony award under very specific circumstances. First, if the circumstances of the adultery are so egregious that they would violate all known norms of society, the adultery may be considered in an award of alimony.3 Second, if a spouse’s adulterous behavior had a negative financial impact on the marriage (such as paying for gifts, lavish vacations, or hotel rooms), that adulterous behavior could be considered by the divorce court in awarding alimony.4 An adulterous spouse may still receive alimony if that spouse’s financial circumstances warrant it.5

The Verdict:

Despite the fact that adultery may be considered during the divorce process, it is not generally considered in making an award of alimony. This is because alimony awards are intended to be financial in nature rather than punitive. In some limited circumstances, however, adultery may be able to influence alimony determinations, but those situations would involve either an expensive adultery or some type of extreme form of infidelity.

If your spouse has been cheating on you and you plan to sue for divorce, you should consider contacting a local divorce attorney for assistance. Divorces involving adultery claims tend to be very messy lawsuits and will be very difficult to litigate on your own. Your rights can be best protected by proactively protecting your ability to succeed in your divorce litigation.

Note: This is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.

Resources:

  1. N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-2.
  2. N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-23.
  3. Calbi v Calbi 396 N.J. Super. 532 (App. Div. 2007) (spouse who tried to have the other spouse murdered was forced to pay alimony). No New Hampshire court has yet made an alimony award on this basis for adulterous behavior; however, serial cheating or some type of particularly deviant adultery might qualify. Ask your divorce attorney for more information about this possibility.
  4. Mani v. Mani 183 NJ 70 (2005).
  5. Id.