Could an affair impact child custody arrangements?

A contentious divorce may sometimes involve the deposition testimony of friends or coworkers. If that testimony might regard an affair and a parent's fitness for custody, however, the proceeding could get messy.

Specifically, a recent example between a divorcing university trustee and his wife almost required the university’s former football coach to give a deposition. The questions would have been pointed: directed at the alleged affair between the former coach and the trustee’s wife.

Readers may question why evidence of cheating would even be relevant in a no-fault divorce. The answer has not do with the either spouse’s ability to file for divorce, but a child custody battle between the parents. In Maryland, providing stability for a child is a primary concern of the court. Yet a divorce court may consider a variety of factors when determining child custody.

Maryland, like most states, has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act. That provides consistency across the country, to an extent. Yet a family law court also will consider any factor that may be pertinent to a child’s best interests. If an affair distracted a parent to the point of being unable to meet the daily physical, emotional, educational and developmental needs of a child, it’s conceivable that joint custody might be withheld from a cheating spouse.

However, there is a wide gulf between what is theoretically possible and the practical approach that family law courts take. Although an affair might produce heated emotions and prompt a divorce filing, it would take persuasive evidence to demonstrate that a parent could not provide a safe, stable and nurturing environment after the divorce. In this case, notably, the divorcing couple resolved their property division and child custody disagreements without needing to depose the former coach.

Source: Courier-Journal, "Blues settle divorce without Charlie Strong," Andrew Wolfson, Feb. 25, 2016