I initially titled this post “Divorce and Adultery” but changed it because “adultery” has a specific meaning in the PA Divorce Code and I wasn’t talking about just that specific meaning. When I talk about infidelity, I’m talking about a whole range of events that lead one partner to decide that they may not trust/love/respect the other person enough to stay married to him or her. What that means varies from person to person and couple to couple.
My purpose is to explore how that ultimate outlook of “my partner did something wrong so I can’t stay married” influences decision-making and outcomes in divorce situations. It’s very important for individuals to understand two concepts about infidelity. The first is how it affects their perception and decision-making. The second is the legal impact (or lack thereof) of infidelity in the divorce process.
You should not let your partner’s infidelity or your partner’s reaction to your infidelity or the whole convoluted, tangled mess surrounding infidelity involving both of you cloud your decision-making. It is not in your best interests or your family’s best interests to make decisions based on the emotions surrounding infidelity. You can’t ignore those feelings and just decide to deal with them later, either. You need to acknowledge and address those emotions and thoughts and how they affect your decision-making before you start making final decisions. That means slow down, take a breath, find a good mental health professional to talk with and take some time to get your head on straight before you make life-altering decisions like whether to get divorced, how to divide your assets and how to raise your children.
Individuals who have engaged in some type of infidelity should heed the same advice. Don’t make hasty emotional decisions that will have long-term impact when your world is turning upside down. Slow down, take the time to educate yourself and plan your future with the help of those around you. That includes family members, but I believe it’s a mistake to rely solely on family members or close friends for support, advice and guidance during such a stressful time. Objective help and advice from mental health professionals, financial professionals and legal professionals is a key part of the support you need. These should not be people who always agree with you, but people who are willing and able to give you advice based on the cold, hard facts even if it’s not advice that you want to hear.
You should also be aware of the legal impact of infidelity so you can make informed decisions. Under the PA Divorce Code, infidelity means little or nothing legally. This is often shocking to people. First of all, the infidelity may not even rise to the level of “adultery” or “indignities”, which are two of the legal names for bad things people can do that may impact their divorce proceedings. If you both want to be divorced, it doesn’t matter who did what wrong, the court will enter a no-fault divorce and will not entertain any testimony about infidelity. If alimony is an issue in the divorce, infidelity may be one of seventeen factors in the court’s decision about how much alimony and how long it will last, but only if the court first decides that alimony is needed. And even if it is a factor, it’s almost insignificant relative to the other financial issues that are the real basis for the alimony decision.