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Divorce: Making the Paramour Pay - Infidelity and Waste

Tonight's post on making the paramour pay was written by one of our Marietta divorce attorneys, Jeannine Lowery.

On April 14, 2015, a Judge in Los Angeles ruled that the wife of former Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, is owed $2.6 million by the woman her husband showered with gifts.

The Judge found the lavish gifts were marital assets, and therefore not something Sterling could simply give to another woman without repercussions. While Sterling and the other woman claimed to be "just friends", the Judge nonetheless ruled that the lavish gifts, including an expensive apartment and cars, had to be returned to the marital estate.

While infidelity is not usually the only reason two people get divorced, it is often an aggravating factor, as it was in the Sterling case. Spouses who seek a divorce based on infidelity understandably feel betrayed and angry. Often they want blood, if not literally at least figuratively, in the form of more assets.

Proving to the Court that a spouse was unfaithful can be time consuming and expensive. And unfortunately, in Georgia, it is often not worth the trouble because infidelity by itself does not mean a larger pay out.

Still, there are circumstances where it is worth the trouble, and infidelity can affect division of assets in divorce.

For starters, if infidelity is the cause of the divorce, the person who was unfaithful will be barred from getting alimony.

Secondly, similar to the Sterling case, if one spouse gives or spends marital assets on another woman/man, a Judge can subtract those gifts from the cheater's portion of the marital estate, leaving the non-offending spouse with a bigger portion of what is left. The same thing is true if a spouse gambles or does anything else to wrongfully deplete the marital assets.

Unlike California, which is a community property state, Georgia uses the equitable distribution method of dividing property in divorce. This means that the Court can look at equity, or fairness, when dividing marital assets and does not have to equally divide the marital property 50/50.

That's why the Sterling case is important. It gives the Court another way to right a wrong, at least from a financial perspective. Rather than exclude the gifts from the marital estate, it forces the paramour to give the assets back so they can be equitably divided. This decision is based largely on the principle that a spouse can't give away what's not exclusively theirs.

Talk about making the other man/woman pay. I'm sure the woman Donald Sterling refers to as an "ex-friend," will miss the Bentley, Range Rover and the 1.8 million dollar home. She is now a friend divested of benefits.

Jeannine Lowery

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