How Does Adultery Affect Divorce Financially in Missouri?
By Heather Frances J.D.
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When one spouse cheats on the other, the marriage may be headed toward divorce. However, even when one cause of the divorce is adultery, the divorcing spouse may choose to file for divorce for another reason. Regardless of the reason for the divorce, in Missouri, marital assets are divided using the same factors.
Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, which means that neither spouse has to prove that the other committed misconduct before the court will grant a divorce. Even if your spouse committed adultery, you don’t have to use that as your grounds for divorce. Under Missouri law, you just have to prove that there is “no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved” such that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Even though neither spouse has to be at fault in order to get your divorce, conduct is not irrelevant in your divorce proceeding.
Adultery as Grounds
If you choose to, Missouri allows you to use adultery as your grounds for divorce. Missouri courts usually prefer joint custody and equal property division, but making your spouse’s adultery an important issue in the divorce proceeding can impact parts of your case, including financial aspects like property division, spousal maintenance, attorney fees and maybe even child custody and visitation. You can also include information about your spouse’s adultery in your divorce petition and proposed settlement agreement, even if you don’t use adultery as your actual grounds for divorce.
If you allege in your divorce papers that your spouse committed adultery, you may have to prove it if your spouse won’t admit to his adulterous conduct. It isn’t enough that you know he committed adultery if you can’t prove it. Proving adultery may prolong your divorce process and increase your expenses. Possible evidence of adultery could include emails, documents, printouts of Facebook posts, credit card statements, photographs and statements of witnesses.
If you can prove to the court that your spouse had an adulterous affair, you may be able to receive a financial benefit. When the court determines how property is divided in a divorce, it considers multiple factors, including the conduct of both spouses, to make a “just” award of property. For example, if your spouse spent family money to buy expensive gifts for his girlfriend while you were married, the court could be more inclined to award you a higher proportion of the marital estate.
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.