Infidelity can be extremely emotionally draining and stressful. If your spouse cheated on you, you may be wondering if, as the injured party, you have any legal recourse to receive compensation for your pain. Although somewhat complicated, there are a few circumstances in which you might be able to bring a civil case against a cheating spouse.
Alienation of Affection
When a third party interferes in a loving relationship between a husband and wife, some states allow what is known as an alienation of affection lawsuit. Usually, this type of claim is filed against the third party, rather than against the spouse, however. Filing an alienation of affection lawsuit requires proof that your marriage was a happy and loving one and that the third party intentionally destroyed your marriage. Unfortunately, only a handful of states still recognize this type of lawsuit, and California is not one of them.
Infliction of Emotional Distress
In California, victims who have suffered emotional anguish as the result of someone else’s actions can sometimes sue for either Negligent or Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED or IIED lawsuits). Although adultery can certainly cause significant emotional distress, you should carefully consider what this type of lawsuit entails, including:
- Proving the existence of your emotional pain (e.g., through expert testimony of a counselor, etc.)
- Establishing how your pain is the direct result of others’ actions
- Documenting the severity of your distress and how the trauma has diminished your quality of life
- Demonstrating that your spouse’s behavior was outrageous or reckless and intended to cause you emotional distress (i.e., for IIED lawsuits only)
Unless you think you have a very strong case or stand to recoup a large amount of financial compensation from your spouse, filing an NIED or IIED lawsuit may cost more time and money than its worth.
How Infidelity Affects Divorce in California
Whether or not you choose to pursue a civil claim against your spouse for an extramarital affair, you might also be considering divorce. Since California is a no-fault divorce state, you would most likely cite irreconcilable differences, rather than adultery, as the reason for your divorce.
Although the California family court system does not usually take infidelity into account in divorce proceedings, there are certain cases where it can affect custody agreements or spousal support. Also, if your spouse spent marital assets on their affair (e.g., expensive gifts, luxury vacations, or hotel stays), the judge will likely require them to reimburse you for those assets during the division of your marital estate.
Facing Infidelity? We Will Fight For You
Our team at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri has decades of experience dealing with complicated divorce cases in California. We understand the toll that extramarital affairs take, and we work hard to protect your rights and make sure you understand all your options. Call us today at (408) 553-0801 to set up a 30-minute free consultation with our family law experts.