When someone files for divorce in the Rhode Island family court system after finding out that there spouse has had an affair or is cheating on them, they often misunderstand the affect that this adultery has on the divorce proceeding itself.
Rhode Island continues to recognize fault-based grounds for divorce as well as the more common breakdown of the marriage due to "irreconcilable differences that have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage".
In Rhode Island the family court judge has the power to consider the "conduct of the parties" during the course of the marriage in determining how the assets should be divided as well as how the debts should be borne by the parties. This is the context in which Rhode Island family court judges will consider adultery in the context of a Rhode Island divorce.
Most spouses that have been "cheated on" see it as a betrayal that must be punished. It is not uncommon for a client to expect their attorney to drag their spouse into court, subpoena the home-wrecker who cheated with their spouse, air their dirty laundry and try to shame and humiliate them both on the witness stand and then get them a big fat chunk of the marital assets.
However, this is an unrealistic view of the Rhode Island divorce process.
A judge may certainly consider the infidelity of the offending party, yet he or she will generally do so with an eye toward the nature and length of the infidelity and what effect it had on the assets and/or debts of the parties. Depending upon various factors, including the effect of the infidelity on assets and debts, the length of the marriage, the nature and length of the infidelity and perhaps even whether the unfaithful spouse made extensive efforts to conceal his or her infidelity, the judge may determine to award to one or the other of the spouses a greater share of the assets or a greater apportionment of the debt to offset the conduct.
However, it is important to note that it is not the court's purpose, nor is the intention that adultery is a mechanism by which a wronged spouse is entitled to exact some measure of retribution against their spouse. Adultery is a factor that will be considered by the court but it is not a license to punish an unfaithful spouse, particularly since unfaithfulness is a measure of the personal relationship between the parties and in many instances does not have to do with the acquisition of assets or accumulation of debt by the parties.
In the same way that child support is not invalidated simply because a parent does not receive their visitation, the expectation of a financial windfall by one spouse because the other spouse breached the "trust and fidelity relationship" may not merit the loss of assets in the eyes of the court, especially if the breach of trust and fidelity had no affect on the assets and debts of the parties.
Adultery is a factor that is considered by the judge presiding in a Rhode Island divorce matter as affecting the equitable distribution of assets and the apportionment of debt. If the adultery had no effect on the assets or debt of the parties, a Rhode Island family court judge has the discretion to determine that the adultery has no effect on the distribution and apportionment.
Let me help you get successfully beyond divorce and into a brighter tomorrow!
All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™