Can my wife sue me for infidelity (and what does that even mean?)
December 23, 2012 6:32 AM   Subscribe

Can my wife sue me for infidelity (and what does that even mean?)

Assume that these are all facts:

We seperated physically as of Nov 10.
We agreed to file for divorce on Dec 3. She has the papers filled out but they are not yet notarized and filed.
I started dating someone new on Dec 19.

Wife has caught on that I'm seeing someone new, and isn't thrilled about it. She found out by viewing (non-suggestive) pictures of me and the new girl on social media accounts. She has since been blocked from viewing these accounts (yes, I know that is not foolproof.) She's saying now that she is going to "take me to court for infidelity." I have not responded to any of her messages about the situation except to deal with logistics (i.e. yes, you can pick up these boxes at this time.)

Throughout our (short, year-plus) marriage we kept our finances completely seperate. We are both pretty poor (I would guess at any one point we both have less than a thousand bucks each in our bank accounts) so I'm not sure she could either afford a lawyer or would really have anything to gain through a lawsuit. We live in Kansas.

So what's my situation? Have I been, legally, infidelitous? If so, what exactly would that entitle her to? Any suggestions as to how I act going forward? (Besides, "Lawyer up!")
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (11 answers total)
[not your lawyer and all that]

Kansas, like most states, allows for "no fault" divorces, such that neither you nor your wife need to prove anything other than that you are incompatible with one another as grounds for divorce. The starting place in Kansas law is here.

It will be up to you two to divide up your assets and liabilities. If you can't do that, the court will do it for you and it will be a hassle. But if you've kept your accounts separate and you don't jointly own any property (cars? a house?) or any debt then it should be pretty simple. You take yours and she hers.

The only other issue would be something like spousal support (sometimes called "maintenance" or "alimony"). But that is typically for a spouse that has made some sacrifice to maintain the home or to raise kids, or where there's a clear disparity in income and the non-earning spouse can say that his or her work at home enabled the high earner. In a one-year marriage, where neither of you have much in the way of assets, it would be hard to imagine a judge ordering maintenance.

In any event, (a) adultery is not typically grounds for a court to impose punishment on someone just by its mere fact of existence, (b) even if it were, it's not clear you are an adulterer in the strict sense of the word, and (c) one would expect adultery as grounds for divorce to come BEFORE the parties have separated and agreed to file for divorce. If anything, you have just gotten a little head start and that may create some negotiation difficulty because your (soon ex-) wife may not be as agreeable as she once was in dividing the property. So you may have to give up that treasured cereal bowl even though you totally used it the most.
posted by AgentRocket at 6:45 AM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

One can sue for divorce on grounds of infidelity but that is entirely separate from a civil suit. I am not going to take the time to look up Kansas law but unless you have very restrictive statutes or live in an isolated community with an under worked Judge I can not imagine you have anything about which to worry--other than the normal stresses of a separation and divorce. If there are no children, and limited assets, there will be a standard formula for dividing assets and awarding maintenance/support (if applicable). The only caveat I would have is if your wife is economically and/or physically dependent on you for support. In those cases grounds for divorce may be more relevant if it turns out to be a contested divorce. Hopefully logic will prevail and both of you will realize that contesting a divorce of 1 year duration, without children or real assets, is foolish, costly and counterproductive.
posted by rmhsinc at 6:48 AM on December 23, 2012

I recently had a similar discussion with my divorce attorney. She said there was absolutely nothing to worry about, even if there'd been a string of affairs during the marriage--the court system just doesn't care about that. Dating after a separation is completely, legally, morally, and in all ways none of your wife's business.
posted by pupsocket at 7:11 AM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is the divorce otherwise uncontested? In Kansas, uncontested divorces only take 60-80 days to finalize. She's probably upset because you barely waited two weeks to start dating again. You asked for suggestions: My suggestion is to wait until the divorce is final before dating other people. Seriously, 60 days is not a long time. And it makes you look desperate and flaky to start dating so soon. It's tacky.
posted by mochapickle at 7:40 AM on December 23, 2012 [14 favorites]

My suggestions:
  • Read about adultery laws in Kansas.
  • Don't date till your divorce is final.
  • REALLY don't put up photos of yourself in romantic situations with a person-not-your-wife on Facebook till your divorce is final.
  • Honestly, just don't post on Facebook till your divorce is final.

    posted by SMPA at 7:45 AM on December 23, 2012 [28 favorites]

    I can't answer questions about your specific case, however, when I was getting divorced in New York State, one party (my ex-wife) had to sue the other party (me) for some cause, or "fault" in the argot of the law. New York State was then known (and I believe still is) as a "fault state", meaning divorce had to occur on the basis of one party being at fault.

    So, I was sued for "alienation of affection" or some such silly legal construct.

    The point being here that just because I was sued to satisfy some procedural quirk didn't mean that there was any factual basis underlying the claims.

    To assert that the law is an ass is to assert the obvious, etc.

    In any event, perhaps the same thing happens in Kansas.
    posted by dfriedman at 8:06 AM on December 23, 2012

    ... it makes you look desperate and flaky to start dating so soon.
    Or maybe it doesn't.

    It's tacky.
    Or maybe it isn't.

    No need to judge the guy, seems his soon-to-be ex has that one down pat.
    posted by dancestoblue at 9:06 AM on December 23, 2012 [28 favorites]

    > And it makes you look desperate and flaky to start dating so soon. It's tacky.

    This is bullshit, of course, but the situation obviously pisses off your soon-to-be-ex-wife, so I think that's what you should deal with. Are you on speaking terms at all? Is there any way you can call on whatever residual affection/understanding there might be and say "Look, I'm sorry this makes you unhappy, but let's face it, our marriage is over, we both acknowledge that, can we just move on now?"

    I speak as someone who went through a divorce myself; my emotions were all over the place (rage, baffled affection, pretended indifference, you name it), but even when my soon-to-be-ex-wife and I were at our most hurt and aggressive, a well-placed remark could slip under the armor and regain us a measure of peace and good sense, and we managed to part on as decent terms as were possible under the circumstances. I wish you the same.
    posted by languagehat at 9:48 AM on December 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

    Photos of you with someone new are not necessarily evidence of infidelity/ adultery, unless the pictures are quite explicit. However, posting pictures and being quite public about a new relationship are insensitive, even when you both agreed to the divorce. Personally, I recommend talking to your wife, apologizing for the insensitivity, and then asking if she'd prefer that you file the papers. IANAL, but keeping separate finances may not matter to the settlement unless you had a pre-nuptual agreement. In community property states, all property acquired during the marriage, and/or put into both names, is community property. I urge you to err on the side of generosity when reaching an agreement, for the sake of getting it over with. I'd consult a lawyer to review the divorce agreement.
    Kansas Legal Services
    Table of Contents for Kansas Divorce Law
    Also, you may wish to edit your profile.
    posted by theora55 at 11:54 AM on December 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

    You started dating someone 4 days ago and you are already posting pics on Facebook together. Slow. Down. You are setting a new bar for drama filled rebound relationships. Hence the wife flipping out. I'm not saying she's in the right here, but anyone could see that coming a mile way.

    I'm not going to comment on the legal thing, but I'm guessing you'll save yourself a lot of pain on all fronts if you slow down the new relationship and keep it on the super down low. You are still married. Be respectful by not flaunting it until things are final.
    posted by whoaali at 8:19 PM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

    Mod note: Let's go ahead and table the how-soon-to-date discussion and concentrate on the legal aspects of the question. Thanks.
    posted by taz (staff) at 5:43 AM on December 24, 2012

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