Do Divorce Papers Reflect Adultery as the Reason?
By Beverly Bird
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If a spouse has committed adultery, no state forces the wronged partner to include this information in his complaint or petition for divorce. As of 2010, all 50 states recognize no-fault grounds, so spouses don’t have to prove any marital misconduct to get a divorce. Some “pure” no-fault states don't recognize any fault grounds at all, so you don’t have the option of alleging that your spouse was unfaithful. However, in other jurisdictions, if you want to file on adultery grounds, the details will appear in at least some of your divorce papers.
Complaint for Divorce
When you file a complaint or petition for divorce on fault grounds, you must usually itemize examples of your spouse’s wrongdoing. If you file for adultery, you must state the name of the person with whom your spouse committed the acts, and when and where they occurred. In some states, you can say that you don’t know this information, but eventually, you will have to prove in court that the adultery occurred.
Counterclaim for Divorce
Your spouse has a right to respond to your divorce petition or complaint. She can file a simple answer, admitting or denying your allegations, or she can file a counterclaim, which is her own version of a divorce complaint. Some states call this document a cross-complaint. If you’re the partner guilty of infidelity and you file for divorce on no-fault grounds or on other fault grounds, your spouse may file a counterclaim for divorce in which she accuses you of adultery. A counterclaim would also include itemized details of the infidelity, which would become part of the court record.
Notice to Co-Respondent
When either a divorce complaint or a counterclaim includes an allegation of adultery, many states require the filing of a third document with the court. This is a “notice to co-respondent” and it must be served on the individual with whom a spouse has committed adultery, along with a copy of the complaint or counterclaim. This document also contains reference to the adultery grounds, although it generally does not go into the same detail that a complaint or counterclaim does.
Judgment of Divorce
In most states, the judgment or decree of divorce is the only document that does not specify the exact grounds on which a court granted the divorce. It is also usually the only document you’ll ever have to show anyone to confirm your divorce is final or to substantiate its terms, such as if you want to include spousal support you’re receiving as part of your income when you apply for a loan. The first paragraph of a decree or judgment usually just states that the court is satisfied that you proved your cause of action, or your grounds for divorce, without naming what they were.
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.