When an Affair Happens – Three Things to Know From a Divorce Attorney
If you suspect your spouse is cheating, it likely feels like your world has been completely turned upside down. You might be feeling the full range of emotions, including rage, sadness, betrayal, jealousy, and maybe even a little unexpected relief now that you know you haven’t been imagining the unspoken problems.
As a divorce attorney, I’ve represented hundreds (if not thousands) of spouses who have found themselves in this exact position over the last quarter of a century. While it is always a very personal decision whether to stay in the relationship, if you are even remotely considering divorce, there are some things you should know and do if you find yourself in this situation to best protect your interests going forward.
Keep reading to find out the three pieces of advice that I always give to potential clients facing these issues.
GATHER EVIDENCE, IF POSSIBLE
First, it is extremely important to gather whatever evidence you can, preferably before you decide to confront your spouse. This might include things like text messages, emails, photos, or videos if you legally have access to these things. It is important to have concrete evidence before taking any further action because once you confront your spouse, they can easily deny everything, and you will be left feeling even more uncertain about the status or stability of your marriage. If they are having an affair, and you confront them without evidence already in hand, they will likely attempt to destroy any evidence that may exist at that point, making it much more difficult to prove their fault in breaking up the marriage if either of you decides to pursue a divorce.
If you can’t legally access evidence like text messages, emails, or other physical proof of the affair on your own, the best way to get video evidence is by hiring a private investigator, otherwise referred to as a “P.I.” This is someone who has a special license to do investigative work for private citizens. Many P.I.s are former law enforcement officers or detectives and are highly skilled in the best methods available for gathering information about a person’s private life that the person may be hiding from everyone else.
Hiring a private investigator is rarely an inexpensive option, but if the investigator can obtain indisputable evidence, especially on video, of your spouse having an inappropriate sexual or romantic relationship with another person, this could save you thousands of dollars in family court litigation expenses since you won’t have to argue about whether an affair has occurred or not.
DECIDE WHETHER TO CONFRONT YOUR SPOUSE OR NOT
Once you have gathered evidence, you need to decide what you want to do with it. This is often the most difficult part of the process. Many people who suspect their spouse is cheating already know deep down that their marriage is likely broken, and while waiting on solid “proof” may be agonizing, once the proof is delivered, there is often a sense of relief that is described many times as, “Thank goodness, I knew I wasn’t crazy for thinking this.” But then a realization sets in that usually begins with the scary thought, “Okay, now what?”
For some spouses, marriage is not something they want to ever give up without trying every option to solve the problems and get back on track. If this sounds like you, you might choose to confront your spouse with the evidence during a quiet time when you’re alone and give them an opportunity to explain what is going on. Or you might decide to ask them to see a marriage counselor with you so that you can confront them in a therapeutic setting with a trained professional present to help guide the conversation. Either way, you may determine that saving the marriage is your goal if you both want to solve the problems and recommit to the marriage.
As a divorce attorney, you may think that I would advise potential clients against either of these scenarios, but you’d be wrong. Marriage is a big commitment for any couple. A marriage, especially one that has lasted more than a couple of years, generally means the two people have invested significant time, effort, and resources into building a life together. If they have children together, that ups the ante, so to speak. I typically advise anyone who truly wants to try to save their marriage that it’s usually worth it to try every option to do so before filing for divorce, but only if their situation is one where everyone is safe and the situation allows for the children to be kept out of the middle of such efforts to save the marriage.
Many spouses, however, decide that once they have hard evidence of the affair, the betrayal of the marriage vows is simply too much so they choose to use the evidence to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery. In these cases, my advice is to always consult with an experienced family law attorney before confronting the cheating spouse. This is the only way to go into that confrontation, knowing all your options and how best to handle the various reactions that may result from the confrontation.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILDREN
Regardless of whether you confront your spouse, seek therapy to repair or work on your marriage, or decide to file for divorce, it is important to take care of yourself during this difficult time. Make sure to lean on your trusted support system (family and friends), take breaks when needed, and try to maintain some sense of normalcy in your life as much as possible. It’s also important to get your professional support system (i.e., your divorce attorney and a good therapist experienced in working with divorce clients) in place as soon as possible.
If you have children, it will also be important to also make sure you have resources for them. If they are made aware of the affair or discover evidence of it for themselves, it will be a very confusing and upsetting time for them, and they will need reassurance when it feels like their reality is being torn apart, too. They may also need therapeutic intervention if they develop anger towards the cheating spouse that doesn’t resolve or negatively affects the parent-child relationship.
If you suspect your spouse might be cheating on you, it’s important to know you’re not alone and you’re not without options to protect yourself. You might not be sure what to do or where to turn for help. But by taking some time to properly gather evidence and then deciding what you want to do with that evidence (confronting your spouse or filing for divorce), you can begin to take back some control of the situation. Lastly, make sure to take care of your and your children’s emotional health during this tough time by relying on your support system, getting good advice from trusted professionals, and taking breaks to care for mental health concerns whenever necessary.
If you and your spouse are considering divorce, don’t make any decisions about how to proceed before talking with a trusted attorney in your area. Your divorce and any settlement you create will be subject to your state’s divorce laws. Without discussing your situation with an attorney, your agreement may not be what you want or what is beneficial to your future. If you’re in South Carolina, it’s important to contact an experienced family court attorney like J. Benjamin Stevens today to discuss your specific situation. Even if you aren’t in South Carolina, Mr. Stevens is happy to offer referrals to a well-qualified attorney located in your state.
If you find yourself facing the prospect of a separation, divorce, alimony, support, or other financial issues, you need the help of an experienced South Carolina family law attorney to guide you through the difficult process. Ben Stevens is a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has the experience to help guide you through the most complicated family law issues. You are invited to contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an appointment.
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Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an initial consultation.
ABOUT J. BENJAMIN STEVENS
Ben.Stevens@offitkurman.com | 864.598.9172
Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina. His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.
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