As 37 million recently hacked people on Ashley Madison can attest, adultery is rampant. What is going on? From what I have seen and heard in my divorce mediation private practice, parents are so stressed out that they forget to nurture one another. They put “adult care” at the bottom of their list, like a chore to be done when there is time. But, while waiting for the “right time,” at least one of the party’s need for attention and physical affection doesn't go away -- no matter how busy they are with kids or careers. In my experience talking with couples over the past several years in my divorce mediation firm, adultery is usually a symptom -- not a cause -- of the death of their marriage. It is rare to encounter adultery in a marriage that was healthy and alive before the deed was done.
If you’ve recently discovered a betrayal in your marriage, and have decided that the marriage is over, I recommend taking a long, slow breath before moving forward with a divorce on the grounds of adultery (if that is even possible in your state, as it is in my area, Northern Virginia - Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William counties).
Divorce trials and litigation, which focuses on the ground of adultery, are extremely expensive and do not help clients move forward with their lives. They grind in past transgressions and ugliness. They reinforce all of the negatives in a marriage, as opposed to focusing on the positive futures available to each spouse if the settlement is fair, centered on the children, and aimed at providing a platform for both spouses’ future success and happiness.
Here’s why you should consider mediating your divorce settlement, and not sue for divorce using adultery as your ground:
- Adultery is often difficult to prove. How far will you take it? Is there another side to the story? This will drive up investigators’ time, court time—and cost--for what gain?
- Adultery is very expensive to litigate. Litigation is highly complex—and therefore expensive. Couples can often settle their matters without all of the legal wrangling and red tape.
- It’s not private. Do you want your kids—not to mention the entire town, schools, church, gym, and Thelma at the bank—to know your business? Why deliver the gossip and humiliation to the world's news feed?
- It serves no purpose. Destroying each other will leave you not only broke, but ultimately cause more anguish. There is no real meaning and value in the destruction of someone you once loved. Focus on building your own happiness from here on in.
- Court is not a place to seek revenge. Judges don’t care who sleeps with whom. They focus on what is best for the children, and how to make income that supported one home now stretch to support two. Mediation can help you pinpoint and focus on key issues for the benefit of the kids.
As for your kids . . . After 13 years in family law, and mediating countless divorcing parents, my thinking is this:
- Do not talk with your young children about what really happened when your spouse cheats.
- Focus on your goals: Be independent. Be happy. Be successful.
- What good is it involving your children in your pain? They’re too young to understand sex and adult relationships. You'll only succeed in making them feel conflicted in their parental loyalties -- right at the very time when they need both of their parents the most.