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No-fault divorce may not ignore infidelity as cause of breakup

In many divorce proceedings, the court is not all that interested in hearing the details of one spouse's extra-marital affairs. That does not stop the media from endlessly recounting their lurid tales of celebrity affairs, including recently that of ex-CIA director and retired General David Petraeus. In Illinois, most couples opt for a no-fault divorce, where no specific allegations of infidelity are levied.

When it comes to issues of child support, alimony, and property settlement, courts in Illinois will decide these issues without regard to who's at fault or to blame in causing the marriage to break up, trying to arrive at an equitable result. So, really, it isn't that the court isn't interested as much as it's that the court doesn't need to know why a couple of splitting up.

Infidelity may, however, come into play and have an impact on financial and property settlement matters in limited circumstances. One situation is when the couple has entered into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that addresses the subject of infidelity. Some agreements may explicitly include financial penalties or forfeitures of the right to receive certain property in the event of divorce if infidelity has occurred.

Courts may also take it into account if a spouse has spent a lot of money on an outside boyfriend or girlfriend. This won't come into play just because the cheating spouse bought the lover a couple of burgers or a few drinks on a night out. But if it gets to the level of a husband paying the rent on his mistress's apartment, or a wife putting her boyfriend through medical school with marital funds, a court may well compensate the other spouse for these extraordinary expenditures.

When issues like these do come up, couples tend to settle them out of court rather than going through the expense and emotional turmoil of a trial. Attorneys with experience in collaborative law and mediation can help couples work out their differences and move on with their lives.

Source: Reuters, "Does cheating cost you in a divorce?" Geoff Williams, Dec. 18, 2012

Our firm uses collaborative law and mediation to help couples going through a divorce. Please visit our Libertyville, Illinois, firm's website if you'd like more information about our practice.

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