By Christopher Pearsall
Though I am a Rhode Island Divorce Attorney, you don’t have to have any experience in law whatsoever to know your own heart. Now, let me preface this article by saying that I am not advocating dating before your divorce is finalized. In fact, depending upon which judge you go before in the Rhode Island Family Court System, their philosophies on adultery vary and it could very well affect the outcome of your divorce in more ways than one.
Consider the case below:
Brad and Linda are getting divorced. Brad files for divorce and Linda files a counter-claim for divorce both in March of 2008. They have two children, both girls, namely Gretta who is 12 and Lisa who is 10. Due to the constant arguing Brad moves out of the house and goes to stay with family members. Immediately Brad is seen by his daughters as the “bad guy” because he filed for divorce and because he left the house. Linda is very angry about the divorce and hires an attorney who causes the divorce to drag on for months. It is now July 2008 and the divorce has been pending for about five months. Brad meets up with a young lady while bowling with a friend one evening and they become friends. The relationship quickly escalates into a dating relationship and as the divorce continues to drag on Brad ends up sleeping with his new girlfriend and then moves in with her.
Linda’s attorney files a Motion to Amend her counterclaim for divorce to a divorce based on adultery. Brad’s attorney objects, however the motion is granted.
In this particular case, family law attorneys differ in the advice they would give.
Some attorneys would counsel Brad not to date anyone or get involved with a new relationship until the divorce is complete. Other attorneys would advise Brad that any relationship he has with any other woman, regardless if intercourse is involved, should be discreet. Finally, other attorneys would advise that a casual relationship with a female is acceptable as long as it is discreet and Brad does not have intercourse with another woman until after the Final Judgment of Divorce has entered.
These varying pieces of advice arise because an opposing party could use the information to make Brad look like a cheater and not worth trusting. This of course could affect the credibility of Brad’s testimony before the court. The argument could also be made that this new woman in Brad’s life was the cause of the breakdown of the marriage and therefore Brad should get a lesser apportionment of the marital assets or a greater assignment of the marital debts.
As individuals, we often follow our heart and not simply the practical advice of our attorneys. The heart does not know the of the law and frankly doesn’t care.
Divorce is generally the division of a relationship that doesn’t work and involves two unhappy hearts. It is human nature that we all strive for happiness and avoid unhappiness. Many times the very fact that we have machinations such as the divorce process is a testament to the fact that legal mechanisms exist to allow us to continue with our lives separate and apart from the other person we married.
As individuals, our journey to find happiness may not necessarily follow the same time line as the court’s divorce schedule. With divorce hearings that may be prolonged and cause a person to be married to another person much longer than they wish to be married to that person, is it any wonder that there is a varying moral standard among many individuals about what is “cheating” on your spouse and even “when” it is considered “cheating” on your spouse.
If Brad separates from his wife for 6 months while they try to save their marriage and he comes to the conclusion the marriage is not going to work, and then he sleeps with another woman the following month, has he cheated on his wife?
If Brad files for divorce and not intending to he falls in love 3 months later and sleeps with the woman, has he cheated on his wife?
Is cheating a matter of law or a matter of the heart?
If Brad’s heart no longer has love for his wife but he finds another person he cares for, can he be considered cheating at all?
If cheating is based upon his wife Linda’s continued love for him and they get divorced and Brad finds someone else as Linda continues to pine for him, is Brad cheating?
These are but questions to ponder for those faced with these situations.
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