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How Much Will Infidelity Cost You?

How Much Will Infidelity Cost You?

By: M. Scott Gordon

The classic narrative of infidelity is always very dramatic; one spouse cheats, the other sues for Divorce and is rewarded with a significant portion of marital property. The reality is somewhat duller, at least in Illinois. However, while marital misconduct may not be a direct factor in any property award, it is still possible that unfaithful spouses may wind up paying for their choices in indirect ways.

Why is Infidelity Not Grounds For A Better Award?

Many people question why Illinois essentially “condones” infidelity (as they see it) by refusing to grant a more lucrative property settlement to the wronged spouse in such matters. However, there are multiple reasons why marital misconduct is prohibited from influencing any property concerns, all of which have to do with good public policy being enforced. Public policy is a term defined as the common sense ideas that prohibit actions that would injure the public. In other words, if something would harm the public in a significant way, public policy urges that it be ceased or restricted. A classic example is smoking bans; secondhand smoke sickens many members of the public, so public policy urges its isolation or cessation.

Public policy is the driving force behind disregarding marital misconduct in property determinations in Illinois. It is impossible, after all, to accurately quantify the degree of harm sustained by a wronged spouse – no amount of property will correct it. Also, one wonders, what if both spouses cheated? Both will feel wronged, but by this logic, the property settlement would be unchanged. There is simply no way to equitably take these matters into consideration in dividing property, and so the courts simply avoid the issue.

Indirect Consequences

Public policy questions notwithstanding, it is still extremely possible for your infidelity to cost you financially in the long run. There are two main ways that this happens with regularity in Illinois divorce cases. The first is in legal fees: while you cannot be subjected to punitive consequences directly, your betrayal may very well influence your spouse to drag out proceedings. Disagreements and objections may be blown up to proportions they may not entirely deserve, and if they have the money to burn, they may consider it a worthwhile expense to cost you money as well. This is not to say they may file frivolous claims; if they do so, both they and their attorney may be subject to sanctions. But to delay responses or to file motions on questions asked with the purpose of drawing out litigation is often condoned by our courts.

The other way you may be made to pay for a perceived offense is via a dissipation claim. Dissipation of marital assets is actionable in Illinois, and it is defined as marital funds spent on purposes unrelated to the marriage after its breakdown. While your spouse must serve you with notice that they plan to claim dissipation, as well as a rough outline of the information they plan to use in support, dissipation claims in a divorce can be costly. While Illinois courts have stated that not every dollar must be accounted for when attempting to trace the flow of marital assets, direct expenditures on your paramour are certainly “dissipation”.

Seek Experienced Assistance
Infidelity, whether committed by you or against you, is a difficult topic that creates strong feelings. In most cases, the assistance of a professional can be a very welcome help in getting through a difficult process. The dedicated Chicago divorce attorneys at M. Scott Gordon & Associates understand the emotions at play, and can help advise you on the areas of the law that are most germane and useful for what you aim to achieve. Contact our offices in Chicago or Skokie / Northshore today to discuss your case.