Is Adultery a Crime in California?

No. California is a no-fault divorce state, and it does not have laws against adultery. Spouses will not face criminal charges for having sexual intercourse outside of their marriage, but they may face consequences in court.

Does Infidelity Affect Divorce?

Generally speaking, no; infidelity does not affect divorce in California. Because California is a no-fault divorce state, you do not have to cite a reason for your divorce. Even if you asked for a divorce because your spouse cheated on you (or vice-versa), the court will not consider this fact during your divorce proceedings.

Of course, if infidelity had a direct effect on any of the aspects of your divorce, the offending spouse will be held accountable. For example:

Property Division

California is a community property state, which means spouses split community property 50/50 unless otherwise specified. If your spouse spent marital money on their affair, however, they must reimburse the marital estate during property division. This means you may end up with more money than your spouse.


The judge cannot award one spouse alimony or spousal support simply because the other cheated. Nevertheless, infidelity can affect alimony if an adulterous spouse moves in with their new partner during a divorce. The adulterous spouse can also be held accountable for damages if they brought home a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or if the other spouse needs mental healthcare as a result of the affair and cannot afford it.

No matter what, the court will only award alimony if one spouse needs it to maintain the same quality of life they enjoyed during the marriage. California courts rarely award alimony when they expect both spouses to be in similar financial situations post-divorce.

Child Custody

In most cases, infidelity does not affect child custody and visitation decisions. The only exception to this rule is when the adulterous spouse endangers their children as a result of the affair.

For example, if your spouse left your kids unsupervised while spending time at their lover’s apartment or behaved inappropriately with their lover in front of your children, their behavior may be considered in a child custody dispute.

How to Divorce a Cheating Spouse

If you are considering divorce, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The court may not consider your reasons for divorce (except in certain situations), but your lawyer will. Your lawyer will also take the time to understand your goals and dedicate themselves to obtaining real results on your behalf.

Our team at the Burch Shepard Family Law Group has over 100 years of collective legal experience to apply to your case, and many of our attorneys are Board Certified Family Law Specialists via the State Bar of California.

We have specialized knowledge of cases like yours, and we are committed to our clients.

Find out more about becoming our client during a complimentary case review – call us at (949) 565-4158 or contact us online to schedule yours today.