What should I do if I suspect my spouse is cheating?

There are two things that I recommend for the person contemplating divorce under these circumstances. One is obvious, the other may not be.

First, you need to seriously consider getting a private investigator. In Alabama “fault grounds” is relevant in a divorce case and can affect the property settlement and alimony awards. Depending on whether the children are being affected by the conduct, it may also influence the custody determination.

But, do not pull out the yellow pages and pick the cheapest p.i. you can find. You should talk to your divorce lawyer about arranging a p.i. who he knows is competent and can be an effective witness in court if that becomes necessary. (The same advice about not using the yellow pages and hiring the cheapest divorce lawyer you can find also applies!)

The second piece of advice is to immediately get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Obviously you don’t know the sexual history of the person with whom your spouse is having an affair. Yes, I know it is an awful thought. But, I can promise you it happens. And, God forbid it happens to you, the sooner you find out about it, the sooner you can be treated. Additionally, if that were to happen, it can dramatically change the posture of your case as there may be additional legal claims that need to be brought. And, if those claims need to be brought your lawyer needs to know about it immediately.

Should I hire a private detective?

Alabama law, for example, does consider “fault” when deciding how to divide property in a divorce. Additionally, depending on the facts, adultery can affect custody determinations.

If your spouse is committing adultery, then you are better off having proof of it then not. This is the case even where you fully intend to settle your case. In fact, often having proof of an affair is what gets the case settled at terms that are fair to you.

It is not fun to find out your spouse has cheated, and you may be like many of my clients who have said they would rather not know. But, you should think carefully before making that decision. Talk to your lawyer. Assuming you’ve chosen a good one, listen to their advice. If you are going to get proof of it, now is the time. Your lawyer should be able to talk to you about the costs involved (it is not cheap) and how to improve your chances of making the surveillance effective, should you choose to go that route.

There are three reasons people generally consider utilizing the services of a detective in their divorce case: to discover assets, to do a background check and to conduct surveillance. The first two reasons listed can now often be done utilizing online databases instead of the services of a P.I. which can potentially save money. With regard to surveillance, a good private investigator can be invaluable in the case, particularly if fault (e.g. adultery, addition to drugs or alcohol, etc.) is an issue.

I won’t get into the distinction of fault grounds vs. no fault grounds in this post (that’s a subject I’ll deal with more extensively in a post of its own), but some states do consider fault in making determinations related to the property settlement and to alimony. Of course, in a contested custody case, a parent’s conduct is also important. So, there are reasons that this evidence can be extremely valuable. For example, having evidence of adultery from the p.i. can give you a great deal of leverage in negotiating a settlement.

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