DIVORCE AFTER AN AFFAIR
I frequently meet with new clients shortly after they or their spouse have revealed or discovered an affair. This is always a painful situation for everyone involved. Emotions run high. Commonly, anger, hurt, grief on are felt one hand. Guilt, shame, anger and relief on the other. People are unmoored from the presumptions of their lives and wondering what to do.
There is no question that it is important to address the feelings that come up around an affair. Failing or refusing to address the complex and deep emotions of this circumstance can have deep psychological and health implications Furthermore, it is often very upsetting for people to learn that in Westchester divorce as in the rest of New York State, the fact of an affair, alone, gives the aggrieved spouse the right to get divorced . . . but not much other recompense. Looking to the law to find a way to manage the feelings that arise after an affair is frustrating and often destructive.
Some other states deal differently with adultery. In some states, a spouse who has been cheated on can be relieved of the obligation of spousal support regardless of other factors. In almost all US jurisdictions including New York divorce, if a spouse uses marital assets to support an extra-marital relationship, those monies are often refunded to the other.
One thing I have noticed is that the people who deal most successfully with this situation are able to separate their actions from their emotions. In other words they are able to act in their own interests rather than react to the revealed the affair. People who are able to think about where they want to go and what this event means to and for them before they do anything are best able to survive the impact financially and emotionally and help their children through a resulting separation or divorce. Some of the things that people do to successfully manage the impact of the affair are:
- Carefully consider whether the marriage can or should survive.
- Thoughtfully consider their finances, including their children’s education, their housing situation and their retirement funds.
- Protect their children from the details of their parent’s intimate lives.
For some people fidelity is the bottom line in a marriage. The fact of an affair means it’s over and there are no other considerations. Other people may feel that an infidelity is information that something is not working well in a marital relationship and want to work on identifying and exploring the problem further. There is no right answer. This is a confusing time for all involved and getting some help sorting out the swirling emotions is crucial.