There is no question that adultery has impacted countless marriages and been the catalyst of thousands of divorces. In mixed states, such as South Carolina, that allow for fault and no-fault divorces, adultery is one of the “grounds” for divorce. What would be the reason for allowing people to divorce on the ground of adultery? The positive finding of adultery would have to negatively impact the cheating spouse of course.
Each state treats adultery differently and the effects of cheating are different depending on the state. In some states, infidelity can impact alimony (spousal support) and property division, while in other states like California, it may not impact any aspect of the divorce. And what about child custody? If one spouse in South Carolina is found to have cheated during the marriage, can the cheating spouse lose their rights to child custody?
Impact of Cheating on Child Custody
As in most, if not all states, adultery does not impact child custody in a South Carolina divorce. It does, however, affect alimony. For example, if a stay-at-home mother had an affair with her next-door neighbor and her husband found out about it, and could prove the affair to the judge, the wife would not be entitled to alimony, even if she would otherwise be entitled to it.
But would the cheating wife lose custody of her children? What if the kids were older and they learned about the affair when their parents were arguing? Even still, the children’s mother would not lose her rights to custody because she cheated with her neighbor. That’s because in South Carolina, infidelity does not have any bearing on child custody or visitation.
“What about property division? Can a cheating spouse receive a smaller share of the marital estate because they cheated?” Not typically, but there are exceptions. Generally, if an adulterous spouse spent a significant amount of the marital assets on the lover, for example, if they paid their bills, bought them a car, or took them on a lavish vacation, then the court could award a larger chunk of the marital estate to the innocent spouse to make up the difference.