Whether infidelity is the root cause of your divorce or a symptom of another problem, it may have been a significant component to the breakup of your marriage. It may have been humiliating, angering, or distressing, but to have a judge grant your petition for divorce, adultery is not necessary.
No Allegations Needed
Historically, adultery was a legal “cause of action” in a civil divorce proceeding, requiring petitioners to prove the existence of extra-marital affairs in order to “win” their case. As you might imagine, submitting evidence to a court of adultery was an invasive and embarrassing process for both parties, prompting Washington lawmakers to trend toward the “no-fault” divorce method.
Today, the divorce process in Washington is “no-fault,” and neither you nor your spouse need to prove any acts of misconduct or infidelity in order to obtain a final divorce decree. Nonetheless, parties embroiled in conflict of adultery often resort to these allegations, believing that proving wrongdoing by the other spouse will help the case and win favor with the judge.
However, constantly bringing up allegations of adultery is not only unnecessary under Washington’s “no fault” divorce process, but can actually work against you.
During a divorce hearing – which will concern matters like child custody, visitation, spousal/child support and property division – constantly mentioning adultery will likely irritate the court and create unneeded animosity between the parties and witnesses. Further, courts have a very tight schedule and a crowded docket, and wasting time on irrelevant adultery testimony will not gain favor with the judge tasked with resolving the matters at hand.
In the “no-fault” divorce context, you need only allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and that you and your spouse are highly unlikely to reconcile. While adultery may be the reason for the assertion, adultery is not the assertion itself – and is therefore not relevant to the proceedings in any substantive way.
As an additional matter, be very careful before testifying about or contending adultery on the record in a divorce proceeding – especially if the allegations are not definitively true. Under Washington law, if you wrongfully claim adultery that, in fact, did not occur, you could face lawsuits for defamation of character. In the end, it is not worth the risk.