Discovering that your spouse has cheated on you is a gut-punch. It can be difficult to process what happened, let alone decide what will happen next. Infidelity doesn’t always have to result in a divorce – many couples choose to work through their issues with the help of couples counseling or other supports.
But if your spouse has cheated and you want a divorce – or even if you just think that you may eventually decide on divorce, even if you haven’t made up your mind just yet, there are some things that you should do to prepare for an eventual divorce case.
Take Stock of Your Finances
Unfortunately, sometimes spouses who cheat on their wedding vows also cheat their spouses in a financial sense, by using money that belongs to the couple on the person that they’re having an affair with, or by spending money in an attempt to cover up the affair. If you’ve discovered that your spouse is cheating on you, it’s important to get a sense of where you are financially and find out if there’s any money or assets missing. Make sure that you have access to bank account information, login information for financial websites, and any documentation that you may have concerning assets or property.
Don’t attempt to start hiding money or moving it to where your spouse can’t access it – divorce courts tend to take a dim view of spouses who try to hide money before filing for a divorce, no matter what their reasons. But making sure that you can access all of the family finances and that you have copies of any important financial documents is a good place to start. In a divorce, it will help you to have these records – that way, if your spouse attempts to hide money or assets, you can prove they existed and that you’re entitled to a share of them.
Gather Proof If Necessary
Depending on the situation, you may or may not want hard evidence of the affair. In some states, adultery on the part of one spouse can affect the divorce settlement – the cheating partner may be awarded less money, for example. If you live in one of those states, you may need to provide evidence of your partner’s infidelity in order to receive a better divorce settlement. If you have a prenuptial agreement that states that infidelity will cause one partner to lose some or all of their share of a marital estate, then you might also want hard evidence of the affair.
In other states, the infidelity isn’t recognized as a cause or claim in a divorce case. In that case, you would probably need to file for a no-fault divorce, and your spouse’s behavior would not affect the settlement or what you receive in the divorce. In that case, you may not have any need for hard evidence of your spouse’s affair. If you don’t need evidence for legal reasons, it’s often not worth spending the money or putting yourself through the emotional wringer of gathering proof of the affair.
If you do need proof, there are several ways to get it. If you can afford it, the simplest and safest route is to hire a private investigator. They’ll know how to obtain proof that can be used as evidence in court if needed. If you decide to do your own detective work, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind. Recording telephone calls may be illegal without the consent of both people on the call, depending on your state.
Intercepting digital communications like emails or text messages not directed to you may also be illegal, depending on your state laws and how you go about it. Evidence obtained illegally will not be admissible in court and won’t help your case, so be careful, be aware of the laws, and be sure not to violate any laws to obtain evidence of infidelity.
Explore Your Legal Options
How do you know whether your state recognizes adultery as a claim in a divorce settlement, or whether you need to file for a no-fault divorce? What are your rights if you decide to separate from your spouse but you’re not ready to divorce just yet? What are your rights if you do want a divorce? How do you protect your assets, and what part of the marital property are you entitled to?
You probably have a lot of questions like these, and the answers can vary from state to state. Your best bet is to find someone to talk to who is familiar with the laws that apply in your situation. You could speak to a divorce lawyer. Even if you don’t plan to divorce right now, or if you don’t think you can afford a divorce lawyer to handle the entire divorce, you may be able to afford a consultation to help you learn your rights and explore your options.
Another alternative is to visit a legal resource group. A legal resource group is an organization that provides you with the information, tools, and resources you need to act on your own behalf legally. If you know that you can’t afford a lawyer, don’t want a lawyer, or just want to explore your options and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a lawyer, a legal resource group like National Family Solutions can be a more affordable and practical option for you.
It’s also important to take the time to take care of yourself. No matter how you decide to handle it, being cheated on is serious and upsetting. You may want to pursue counseling or therapy. At a minimum, you should reach out to supportive friends and family who will listen to your concerns and support whatever you eventually decide to do. Don’t feel pressured to make any immediate decisions, and don’t expect yourself to have all the answers right away. You’re entitled to take your time and think about what you need and want before you take any actions.