If your husband has cheated on you, you might feel heartbroken or you might want justice. While you may be mad at your husband, you might be furious with the person he cheated with. One solution you may have thought about is taking them to court. The Ventura, CA family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth explain the law in California surrounding whether you can sue someone for cheating with your husband.
Can You Sue a “Homewrecker” in California?
Historically, there were laws that allowed people to sue for cheating. “Adultery” is the traditional name of sexual intercourse with someone who is not your spouse, and many states used to criminalize adultery – for both the spouse and the person they cheated with. Other laws also provide potential justice for victims of cheating:
Divorce for Adultery
If you were cheated on, some states allow you to sue for divorce based on adultery grounds. These fault divorces mean that the victim needed to sue and prove the adultery to get the divorce granted. Typically, the defendant could use their spouse’s forgiveness or their spouse’ own adultery as a defense to these divorces. California only uses no-fault divorce, so this is not available in CA.
Criminal Conversation or Seduction
Traditional laws and the current laws of some states allowed wronged spouses to sue the person whom their spouse cheated with. They would bring the case against the “homewrecker” on the grounds that they seduced their spouse into cheating and pulled them away from them. These “criminal conversation” or “seduction” lawsuits were traditionally filed by husbands against their wife’s paramour.
Alienation of Affection
A similar traditional claim allowed victims of broken marriages to sue the person who pulled their spouse away from them. These “alienation of affection” cases could be filed against the cheating spouse’s lover, but they could also be filed against others who were responsible for harming the marriage, e.g., a therapist or counselor who convinced the spouse to seek divorce.
Laws allowing criminal conversation and alienation of affection lawsuits are commonly known as “heart balm” laws. Unfortunately for residents of California, there are only 9 states that still have functioning heart balm laws today: Hawaii, North Carolina, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah. Moreover, California does not have a criminal statute against adultery. This means you typically cannot sue someone for having an affair with your husband.
Other Lawsuits for Cheating
While there typically are no grounds to sue someone for cheating with your husband in California, you can often sue if the situation is outrageous or violent and causes you harm. If your husband cheated on you with someone who was physically violent or confrontational against you, you may be able to sue them for assault and battery. Similarly, if the person unlawfully restrained you, stalked you, repeatedly threatened or harassed you, or if they otherwise committed crimes or acts of abuse against you, you may be entitled to sue them for damages under various civil causes of action. You may also be able to call police or prosecutors to report the case for criminal charges or seek a restraining order against them in court.
Can You Sue Your Husband for Divorce from Adultery in California?
If you cannot take legal action against the person your spouse cheated on you with, you may be able to divorce your husband on account of their unfaithfulness. Unlike states that use adultery as a ground for divorce, California only has no-fault divorce. This means you cannot sue for divorce based on adultery in CA, but that may ultimately simplify your case.
Suing for adultery means having to prove to the court that your spouse cheated on you. Typically, this means proving your spouse had sexual intercourse with someone else while married to you. Not only is this an incredibly private matter that most people would not want to discuss in open court, but it is also incredibly difficult to prove. Unless you actually caught your husband in the act or have photographs of the affair, it is difficult to prove adultery.
California law allows you to sue on no-fault grounds, which might make your case easier. No-fault divorce grounds mean that you do not need to allege a specific reason to get divorced, such as adultery or abuse. Instead, you can claim that you and your husband have “irreconcilable differences” that justify ending the marriage. The court does not need you to prove anything, and will typically not ask about adultery or other fault grounds in a no-fault divorce.
While your spouse cheating on you might be the event that pushes you to file for divorce, you do not need to discuss the cheating as part of your divorce case. This allows you to maintain your privacy over the matter. It also means that the court will typically not ask about or use facts pertaining to adultery in the case at all. The only time that evidence of adultery might come up in a divorce case is if you have shared children and your husband’s affair negatively affected their health or safety in a way that might support restricting your husband’s child custody rights.
If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement with an infidelity clause, this could help you gain additional assets and alimony as part of your divorce. Talk to a lawyer about enforcing this agreement.
Call Our Ventura Divorce Lawyers for a Free Consultation on Divorce after an Affair
If your husband cheated on you in California, the law supports your right to file for divorce and handle the matter in court without the burden of proving the adultery. While you may not be able to sue the person they cheated with, you can still file for divorce and custody rights after your husband’s affair. For a free legal consultation, call the Ventura divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today at (805) 585-5056.