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How does infidelity impact child custody?

Your spouse cheated on you. Maybe they had affairs with multiple people, or maybe they found the new love of their life while you were still married.

Whatever the case, now you're getting divorced. Your spouse wants to share custody of the kids. You think there's no question that you should be their primary caregiver. After all, your spouse is untrustworthy and immoral, right?

If the two of you take the matter to court, a judge will look deeper than that. The fact that a person cheated on their spouse doesn't necessarily make them an unfit parent. As one attorney explains, adultery is "unlikely to affect a custody determination so long as the wayward spouse has not carried on the relationship in front of the children or exposed them to inappropriate people or situations during the course of the affair."

You may not have any control over whether your spouse gets to play an important role in your kids' lives -- and it may well be best for the kids to continue to have a close relationship with their other parent. However, you can seek to have some control over how much your kids are exposed to your co-parent's new significant other (or string of new partners).

You can request provisions in your parenting plan about contact between your children and a parent's new love interest. You may want to stipulate that you must meet someone before they're introduced to the kids. You may want to include language about whether someone can spend the night if the kids are in the house. Perhaps you want to stipulate that no one can introduce a new significant other to the kids for at least six months following the divorce.

When seeking these restrictions, keep in mind that you should be doing what's best for the kids and not trying to get back at your spouse. If a judge has to weigh in on the agreement, that's what they'll look at. Remember, too, that you'll need to abide by the same restrictions when you begin dating.

Infidelity can certainly bring an added level of conflict to divorce proceedings. However, it's essential not to conflate your spouse's marital behavior with their ability to parent. Your attorney can help you work to seek a custody and visitation agreement that's best for your children.

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