What Happens in a Divorce When a Spouse Cheats in Illinois?

Unraveling the threads of a marriage can be a complex and emotional journey, particularly when infidelity enters the picture. The discovery of a spouse’s betrayal can have a profound impact on the dynamics of a divorce. Clients often ask us what happens in a divorce when a spouse cheats, and while the emotional wounds of cheating may run deep, it’s essential to understand how the legal landscape responds to such circumstances.

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Illinois is considered a “no-fault divorce” state. Petitioners seeking a divorce must only state that there are irreconcilable differences between them and their spouse for a divorce to commence. This means that there is no blame assigned to either party in the divorce, therefore there aren’t any immediate legal concequences for cheating in a no-fault state. In Illinois, the act of cheating or adultery does not have a direct impact on the division of property or the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) in a divorce the same way it might in other states.

In “at fault divorce” states petitioners must choose the grounds (the reason) for the divorce. These grounds include adultery, abuse, abandonment, imprisonment, and more depending on your state. In these states, the act of cheating does have a direct impact on the division of property, the allocation of parental responsibilities, and may bar the cheater from being awarded alimony.

When coming to a decision regarding the issues in a divorce, the court considers factors such as each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, the length of the marriage, and the financial circumstances of each spouse. While cheating doesn’t have immediate legal concequences, it’s important to note that there are some situations in which a spouse’s infidelity may indirectly affect the divorce process:

  1. Dissipation of Marital Assets
  2. Parental Responsibilities
  3. Spousal Support


There are two legal theories that states recognize when it comes to dividing marital property. These theories are equitable distribution and community property. Equitable distribution states split assests between ex-spouses in a way that is fair but not necissarily equal. This means one spouse can be given more of the marital property if they earned more and paid for more of the assets. In community property states assets are divided 50/50.

Because Illinois is an equitable distribution state, assets are not split 50/50. This means, in Illinois, the court has some say in what is considered fair distribution of assets. If a spouse can prove that the cheating partner dissipated, or wasted, marital assets during the affair (e.g., spending significant amounts of money on gifts or trips for the extramarital partner), the court may take this into consideration when dividing marital property.

When attempting to prove these allegations in court it can help to know who can be subpoenaed in a divorce case in Illinois. Through the courts you have the power to subpoena documents and witnesses to help prove your case. This is especially important when dealing with a cheating spouse. Clink the link above to learn more about the power of subpoena.


While cheating does not automatically impact child custody determinations, the court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child. If a spouse’s extramarital affair directly affects their ability to provide a safe and stable environment for their child, such as exposing the child to inappropriate behavior or creating an unsafe environment, the court may consider this when determining the allocation of parental responsibilities. Cheaters may be given less parenting time because of their actions.


While cheating itself may not be a factor in determining spousal support (also known as maintenance or alimony) in Illinois, the court may consider the economic impact of the affair. If the cheating spouse’s actions result in a significant depletion of marital assets or a loss of income, it could indirectly influence the court’s decision regarding spousal support. Spousal support will also be withheld if the cheating spouse is cohabitating with, or planning to cohabitate with, their new romantic partner.

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It’s important to consult with a family law attorney to understand how the specific circumstances of your case may be affected by a spouse’s cheating. They can provide guidance based on the specific laws and regulations of your jurisdiction and help you navigate the divorce process.

Other Effects

There are other concequences for cheating that can affect the divorce process in even more indirect ways. When one spouse cheats on another, the trust between them is usually shattered. This lack of trust can lead to other problems down the road. Mediation and other alternative processes for divorce proceedings may become impossible if the parties do not trust each other and cannot communicate together. This can result in elongated court proceedings. If there are children involved, they may not want to be with the cheating spouse resulting in the loss of a parent-child relationship for the cheater. If it is shown in court that one parent cheated on their spouse, then the judge may be less lenient when when the cheating spouse asks the court for favors or for rescheduling upcoming court dates.

Child Support

In Illinois, child support is often required by courts when children are involved. Child support is often calculated with a formula that takes into account the income of both parents, their assets, and what else is included in the divorce agreement. If you are paying alimony, or have a majority of the parenting time, then your child support payments may be non-existent, or less than they would have otherwise been.

Child support payments will not change what happens in a divorce when a spouse cheats. The best interests of the children involved will always be the court’s top priority. This means child support payments will not directly be affected by a spouse cheating. To learn more about how child support is calculated in Illinois you can check out the Illinois Child Support Estimator.

Sometimes after seperation one parent won’t get a job so they can avoid child support payments. While this isn’t common, it also isn’t uncommon. To learn more about this issue check out our article titled how does “Child Support Work if the Mother Has No J