When a marriage breaks apart, it’s a horrible and painful process. When adultery is the cause of the break up, it makes things even harder. Beyond the mere hurt of being rejected for someone else, the betrayal and lack of trust after adultery makes everything about a divorce harder. It is one thing to not know your future but to not know your past because of the lies and deception of adultery is a devastating experience.
Adultery is not an official grounds for divorce in Illinois.
In Illinois, before 1984 there were all sorts of grounds for divorce such as abandonment and adultery. You’d have to prove those grounds in court in order be granted a divorce. This means that if one person didn’t want to be divorced the other person would have to hire private detectives to testify they saw the cheating party “committing adultery.” This involved such dramatics as bursting into hotel rooms with cameras.
Since 2016 there is only one ground for divorce, irreconcilable differences. Irreconcilable differences means you tried to get work out the problems in your relationship but you couldn’t resolve those problems. Proving irreconcilable differences is much easier. You either testify that you couldn’t resolve things or just testify that you’ve been separated for six months which automatically proves irreconcilable differences.
“If the parties live separate and apart for a continuous period of not less than 6 months immediately preceding the entry of the judgment dissolving the marriage, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the requirement of irreconcilable differences has been met.” 750 ILCS 5/410(a-5)
Adultery Is Almost Always Accompanied By Dissipation Of Assets
Unless the cheating spouse’s paramour is a very cheap date, the other spouse can make a claim for dissipation of assets.
Upon the final division of a divorcing couple’s marital assets the court must consider the dissipation of the value of marital and non-marital property.
“Dissipation is defined as the use of marital property for one spouse’s benefit for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown” In Re Marriage of Tietz, 605 NE 2d 670 Ill Appellate Court, 4th Dist. 1992.
So, anything moneys spent on a “purpose unrelated to the marriage” at a time “when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown” will be considered counted as wasting the marriage’s money.
A person with a shopping addiction may argue that their spending was, in fact, related to the marriage and therefore not dissipation. A still-married person paying for vacations with their new girlfriend or boyfriend can never say that expense is not a “purpose unrelated to the marriage”
While a degenerate gambler may say that their gambling occurred before the marriage underwent “an irreconcilable breakdown” a cheater cannot say their affair happened before the marriage was in the process of breaking up.
Basically, if the money was spent on a date, on a vacation or on a gift for the new lover, it’s dissipation.
Alleging dissipation is a very formal process. The Illinois statute requires:
“[A] notice of intent to claim dissipation shall be given no later than 60 days before trial or 30 days after discovery closes, whichever is later;
The notice of intent to claim dissipation shall contain, at a minimum, a date or period of time during which the marriage began undergoing an irretrievable breakdown, an identification of the property dissipated and a date or period of time during which the dissipation occurred.
a certificate or service of the notice of intent to claim dissipation shall be filed with the clerk of the court and be served pursuant to applicable rules.” 750 ILCS 503(d)(2)
Once this formal notice has been filed the burden of proof shifts from the classic American “prove the accused did it” system. The accused dissipater must now prove they did not dissipate the assets as alleged.
This is a tall order. The alleged dissipater must prove how the assets were spent for a marital purpose. This means the alleged cheater cannot hide behind ATM cash withdrawals. The explanation of the spent money usually relies on the alleged cheater’s credibility as they testify.
Testimony alone is usually still not enough to prove the spent money was not dissipation. “If expenditures are not documented adequately by the person charged with dissipation, the courts will affirm a finding of dissipation.” In Re Marriage of Tietz, 605 NE 2d 670 Ill Appellate Court, 4th Dist. 1992.
This burden of proof is so extreme that a divorce lawyer’s only advice to a client who is cheating is to keep receipts of all expenses whether they were for an affair or not. Otherwise, the courts may find that legitimate expenses were dissipation of assets as well.
The Effect Of Dissipation of Assets in An Illinois Divorce
Once the courts find that assets have been dissipated they will adjust the allocation of marital assets based on the dissipation.
Illinois courts allocate the marital assets among the two parties based on a variety of factors but the bias is always towards a 50/50 split. After the courts consider the allocation of the marital property the courts consider any findings of dissipation.
If, for example, a divorcing couple had $ 100,000 of marital assets to divide and one party to the divorce spent $ 10,000 on an affair and that $ 10,000 was found to be a division of assets, the court will allocate the other party to the divorce an extra $ 5000. The theory is that if the money had not been dissipated, the divorcing couple would have $ 110,000 to divide.
So, the Illinois court, in this example would allocate $ 55,000 to the non-cheater and $ 45,000 to the cheater. Basically, imagining that the parties still had the total of $ 110,000 of assets but the cheater took a $ 10,000 advance on their portion.
Adultery’s Effect On Division of Assets
Outside of dissipation of assets Illinois courts are not to consider adultery or any kind of bad behavior when dividing assets in a divorce.
The courts “shall divide the marital property without regard to marital misconduct in just proportions” 750 ILCS 503(d)
In reality, the judges are human and will perceive bad behavior the same way anyone would. That being said, judges are often very jaded as to what actually constitutes contemptible behavior. Garden variety adultery usually is not enough to sway a judge’s ruling.
Adultery and Children
While adultery may be the cause of a divorce, children are purposely kept ignorant of it by the usual language included in the final documents that govern the parties’ behavior around their children.
In the Allocations of Parenting Responsibilities and Parenting Time that I draft for my clients I include two clauses:
“Neither party shall make derogatory or derisive comments about the other or any of the other’s family members. in the presence of the minor children, nor allow any other individuals to do so in the presence of the minor children.”
So, no talking about how the other party is a cheater, was dishonest, etc. At least in front of the children.
“Neither party shall expose the minor children to any immoral conduct or behavior.”
This means no lewd displays of affection in front of kids. It could even mean don’t discuss immoral behavior such as adultery.
While it is often impossible to keep your children from meeting your ex’s paramour you can include language in the Allocation of Parenting Responsibilities and Parenting Time such as:
“Neither party shall introduce the children to boyfriends or girlfriends unless the party has been in a relationship with the boyfriend or girlfriend for at least (insert period of time).”
This language is really to keep children from meeting a parade of different lovers a parent has and the confusion that can cause.
In sum, your children can eventually meet the person who broke up your marriage and you’re not supposed to criticize that person, either…at least in front of the kids.
Can You Sue The Person Your Husband or Wife Cheated With?
You used to be able to and it didn’t happen in divorce court. I discuss the process of suing someone for alienation of affection in this article.
If you’re going through a divorce in Chicago, Illinois and are concerned how adultery will effect your divorce contact my Chicago law office to speak with an experienced divorce lawyer.