Adultery in Mississippi - Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

Category: 

Alimony is a type of payment required to be made by one spouse to another after a divorce. Alimony is enforced by a court order and must be paid by to the spouse who was awarded payment. Most are unaware, however, how alimony is calculated. If your spouse cheats on you, that may be a reason for the court to award additional money.

As many spouses know, cheating often has consequences. Aside from the effect of cheating on the marriage itself, cheating may affect the divorce process and any alimony awards received by the spouses. Each state varies on how exactly adultery will affect an alimony award, and so this article is intended to clarify that issue for the state of Mississippi.

The Nature of Divorce in Mississippi

Before discussing whether adultery or cheating would affect an award of alimony or spousal support, the nature of divorce in Mississippi must be examined.While Mississippi does have a comprehensive no-fault divorce law1, a divorce can also be granted for any one of twelve “fault” reasons, including adultery.2 One key idiosyncrasy about Mississippi’s adultery laws is that if the spouses continue to live together after learning about the adultery, the spouses cannot get divorced because of that adulterous conduct.

About Mississippi Alimony Rules

Mississippi law allows courts to grant an award of alimony as part of a divorce proceeding.3 Unfortunately, Mississippi law is not entirely clear as to the procedure for awarding alimony or how courts should consider alimony awards. Therefore, that task fell to the Mississippi courts.

In the case of Armstrong v. Armstrong,4 the Mississippi Supreme Court synthesized a list of eleven factors that Mississippi divorce courts should use in determining the duration and amount of alimony awards. Those factors are:

  • The income and expenses of the parties;
  • The health and earning capacities of the parties;
  • The needs of each party;
  • The obligations and assets of each party;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The presence or absence of minor children in the home and associated child care costs;
  • The age of the parties;
  • The standard of living during the marriage and at the time of the support determination;
  • The tax consequences of the spousal support order;
  • Fault or misconduct; and
  • Wasteful dissipation of assets by either party.

The Effect of Adultery and Other For-Cause Grounds for Divorce on Alimony

Based on the Mississippi Supreme Court’s Armstrong factors, Mississippi courts may consider the fault or misconduct (such as adultery) of the spouses when making alimony awards. That said, a spouses’ infidelity cannot be the sole basis for a divorce court’s decision. A spouse’s adultery must be considered alongside the other factors.5 This means that if a spouse’s financial circumstances require alimony, Mississippi courts cannot deny alimony altogether simply because that spouse committed adultery.6

The Verdict:

Mississippi courts will certainly consider either spouses’ adulterous behavior when making an award of alimony. While adultery by itself will not be enough to either grant or deny a request for alimony, a spouse’s infidelity will likely influence the amount of the final alimony award.

If your spouse has been cheating on you and you plan to sue for divorce, you should consider contacting a local divorce attorney for assistance. Divorces involving adultery claims tend to be very messy lawsuits and will be very difficult to litigate on your own. Your rights can be best protected by proactively protecting your ability to succeed in your divorce litigation.

Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.

Resources:

  1. See Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-2.
  2. Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-1.
  3. Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-23.
  4. 618 So.2d 1278 (Miss. 1993).
  5. Holley v. Holley, 892 So. 2d 183 (Miss. 2004).
  6. Hammonds v. Hammonds, 597 So. 2d 653 (Miss. 1992).