Adultery and Divorce Laws in Pennsylvania

adultery and divorce in pennsylvania
Share this article:

There are many reasons why people decide to end their marriage. Among these reasons, one of the most frequent ones is, perhaps, adultery. Even though cheating is not something you can get into jail for in the state, according to PA divorce laws, adultery may influence some aspects of the marriage dissolution.

Pennsylvania is a “fault state,” meaning that a person can file for divorce based on some wrongdoing committed by their spouse. That’s why the state courts act according to cheating spouse divorce law in cases where the marriage dissolution case is initiated based on this claim.

Based on Pennsylvania divorce laws, adultery may mainly affect the judge’s decision on alimony. However, it rarely has an effect on other aspects of divorce, such as asset and property division, custody, child support, visitation, and so on. In the case of property division, cheating may become a deciding factor only if the party who committed it was proven to waste considerable family resources on the affair.

What Constitutes Adultery in Pennsylvania Divorce Law?

In order to understand the nature of Pennsylvania adultery laws, one needs to know what is defined as adultery in the legal sense. These are sexual relations a married person has with another person out of wedlock.

Since PA is a fault-based state, the party claiming that adultery took place must prove it. In this case, they must provide evidence, such as photos, videos, texts, emails, letters, receipts, etc., to the court. Witnesses may also participate in the trial and testify on the affair – even the person who the spouse cheated with. If the proof is enough, it may affect the amount of child custody and alimony (or spousal support).

Another important fact about an affair and divorce is that the second spouse must be innocent for cheating to be recognized as a valid reason for ending a marriage and have any effect on divorce rulings. Moreover, they shouldn’t have forgiven the cheater, and the sexual act shouldn’t have been done with their consent of involvement.

Is Adultery a Crime in Pennsylvania?

People often confuse or interchange the answers to the following questions:

  • Does adultery affect divorce? The answer will likely be yes, and usually solely when it comes to judge’s decisions on alimony payments.
  • Is adultery a crime in Pennsylvania? No, and it hasn’t been for a long time. Some states, however, still consider it a felony or a misdemeanor.

Still, while adultery is not criminalized in PA, it may heavily influence divorce proceedings in fault-based cases, given that there is enough evidence.

signing adultery spousal support

Does adultery affect spousal support in PA?

Adultery can affect spousal support in PA, although it’s not the only factor a judge will take into account. Spousal support is the amount of money one spouse pays to the second one if the latter has fewer resources or needs to be supported, but it is not necessarily granted during each divorce case. The length of the marriage, as well as the age and health of each spouse, will affect alimony decisions.

If the person seeking alimony is proven to be cheating, they may get no support from the cheated spouse, or the amount will be lower than it would be without infidelity allegations. And, vice versa, the spouse who’s been cheated on can get a better settlement, especially if the affair has financially affected the family.

Does adultery affect spousal support in PA in any type of divorce? If your filing grounds are “adultery,” it will, but it’s not at all likely when you file based on irretrievable breakdown. Spouses may choose to file on the latter ground to simplify their divorce, and they usually agree on the alimony amount without involving a court in it. If you are a spouse who was cheated on, you need to be cautious when choosing either option.

Can adultery impact child custody and child support?

Child custody in PA is rarely affected by the adultery of one of the parents, but there are exceptions. As in any other state, Pennsylvania judges always make their decisions based on the best interests of the child.

Consequently, if the negative effects of infidelity on children were proven, the other parent may get primary or sole custody. It usually happens when a parent has neglected the child or put their life in danger because of the affair.

Child support in PA is calculated according to a state formula and is primarily based on the financial situation of both parents and child’s needs. Cheating is generally not considered a factor that can affect these calculations.