Marital Misconduct--What It Is And How It Can Impact Financial Considerations In Your Divorce

In the past, divorce was a much trickier issue than it is today. That's because the courts required anyone who wanted to obtain a divorce to prove the ways that their spouse contributed to the failure of the marriage. Essentially, someone had to be "at fault" or else the divorce was not honored.

In 2010, New York became the last state to legally recognize "no fault" divorces. That means any married couple can seek a divorce without claiming that their spouse was guilty of marital misconduct. However, in certain situations, marital misconduct can have an impact on how the judge decides to dissolve the financial partnership with your spouse.

To understand how this works, it's important to understand the most common types of marital misconduct. Since divorce is primarily a financial discussion in the eyes of the court, it's a good idea to focus on the types of misconduct that have an economic impact on the partnership.


Life with an alcoholic spouse can create a great deal of emotional and financial hardships for anyone. Often alcoholic behavior creates financial impediments, such as:

  • Increased difficulty with acquiring or maintaining gainful employment
  • Excessive fines/penalties for public intoxication and driving
  • Significant costs associated with injuries and treatment

If these factors are seen by the court as contributing factors to the current and future financial situation of each party, a spouse's alcoholism could factor into the determination of property distribution or spousal support. Often, this will come down to the individual's experience with alcoholism and your state's statutes.


It's no secret that infidelity is a particularly common cause for divorce today. This is understandably so--the fundamental concept of marriage is often defined as a monogamous commitment between two spouses. That said, it's unlikely that a judge will use infidelity as a factor when determining the financial implications of a divorce.

That's because infidelity, while admittedly a breach of trust, often has little to no economic impact on the partnership. Since divorce law is primarily concerned with the equitable distribution of mutual property and resources, infidelity has almost no place in that. The only circumstances where infidelity might factor into the distribution of marital assets is if the infidelity also included a misuse of joint assets, such as expensive trips or gifts.

Erratic Behavior

In the months leading up to a divorce, it's possible for a spouse to exhibit strange behavior. Staying out late at night, developing new interests, and becoming detached from the family as a whole are fairly common during this time. The magnitude of this behavior will determine whether it will impact property distribution or not. 

For example, a person who maintains their employment but never returns home hasn't had an undue impact on the couple's finances. On the other hand, a person who quits their job and spends months traveling the world could deplete the family's resources--leaving the spouse with nothing. When dealing with erratic behavior, it's important to focus primarily on the financial impact of the behavior in question.

Criminal Activity

It's commonly thought that in the event that your spouse commits a crime, the distribution of finances could be altered as a result. However, this is rarely the case. When someone is convicted of a crime, the associated penalties and fines are constructed to create a punishment that fits the crime. Losing a claim on marital assets would only further punish the criminal--making the overall punishment disproportionate.

That said, it's always worth discussing the nature of the crime with your attorney. In certain specific situations, such as a crime involving a retirement account or pension, there might be a case for legal considerations. Your attorney is your best resource in determining your options in a case like this.

The two most important things for anyone dealing with the financial side of divorce are to have reasonable expectations and to disclose everything to your attorney. While your spouse's transgressions have certainly had an impact on your life, only your attorney will know if your financial award should be altered in kind. To find local divorce attorneys, consider websites like

About Me

Learning about Legal Contracts

Hello, I am Miranda Parker. Welcome to my website about legal contracts and paperwork. When I was going through my divorce, and subsequent bankruptcy, I was given an incredible number of legal contracts and paperwork to fill out and sign. The documents gave my attorneys that opportunity to represent me in court and fight for the items that were important to me. On this site, I will explore the purpose of each type of legal contract in great detail. I will talk about the best practices you can use when faced with a pile of legal paperwork to handle. Thank you for visiting my website.



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