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As the 37 million people who were hacked on Ashley Madison in 2015 can attest, extra marital affairs are rampant. A study published in 2011 confirmed that one in five of the 1,000 people surveyed had cheated on their spouses. What is going on? From what I have seen and heard in my divorce mediation practice, marriages end when couples 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, extra marital affairs are 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 Virginia divorce laws).
Also read: Why marriages fail
Think it through
Litigating a divorce on the grounds of adultery is extremely expensive. Not only will you be broke, but the ugliness of such a suit will reinforce all the negatives of your marriage and leave little energy to focus on the positive futures awaiting both spouses (if the settlement is fair, centered on the children, and aimed at providing a platform for both spouses’ future success and happiness).
Divorce on Adultery? Consider Mediation
Here’s why you should consider mediating your divorce settlement, even when there have been extra marital affairs, and not sue for divorce on adultery grounds:
Adultery is often difficult to prove.
Divorce on 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. If you focus on today, plan for tomorrow, and leave yesterday in the past, you will probably be better off both emotionally and financially.
LITIGATION IS not private.
Do you want your kids—not to mention the entire town, schools, church, gym, and your boss—to know your business? Why deliver the gossip and humiliation to the public news feed? Unlike litigation, mediation is completely private.
The court is not a good place to seek revenge.
Judges don’t care who sleeps with whom. They focus on: 1) what is best for your children, 2) how to support two households with the income that used to support one, and 3) how to fairly divide up assets and debts.
As for your kids . . . After many years in family law and mediating countless divorce cases, 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.