Does Adultery Affect The Amount of Child Support Owed? (The Answer Might Surprise You)

Adultery is a sensitive subject that can have far-reaching consequences on various aspects of divorce proceedings. 

When it comes to child support, the majority of courts do not consider adultery as a direct factor in determining the amount of support that should be awarded. 

However, If the adultery decreases the adulterous parent’s visitation time, this will affect the child support calculations. Generally, a parent who has the child for less time will owe more child support.

All states have guidelines that direct the court on how to calculate the amount of child support that should be ordered. As such, an extramarital affair will not directly “how” child support is calculated; it can have a significant impact on the “amount” of child support ordered. 

This article will examine how adultery can impact child support. 

Adultery Can Impact The Court’s Custody Decision, Which Indirectly Impacts Child Support

In most jurisdictions within the United States, the direct impact of adultery on child support is usually minimal. 

However, adultery can indirectly affect child support by influencing custody and visitation decisions, which in turn can impact child support amounts. Here’s how this might happen.

When making custody decisions, the court’s primary concern is always the “best interests of the child.” 

This means that the court will decide custody based on factors like the physical and mental health of the parents, the child’s age and preference, the stability of the home environment, and the parents’ ability to meet the child’s needs.

However, if the adulterous conduct of the parent was exposed to the child in a way that emotionally harmed the child or if the parent’s extramarital affair has led to neglectful parenting or instability in the child’s life, this will impact the court’s decision on custody. 

The parent who committed adultery will likely receive less time with the child if the court believes their actions were harmful to the child’s welfare.

How Does The Court’s Custody Decision Impact The Amount of Child Support? 

Child support is a financial contribution made by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent towards the costs of raising the child. 

The idea behind child support is that both parents are financially responsible for their child, regardless of who the child lives with.

If, because of the extramarital affair, a parent does not get custody (meaning they do not have primary or sole physical custody), they are generally the one who pays child support to the parent who does have custody. 

The amount of child support a noncustodial parent pays is determined by a formula that varies by state. This formula often takes into account factors such as:

  • Each parent’s income.
  • The amount of time the child spends with each parent.
  • The number of children.
  • The needs of the child, including health insurance, daycare, and special needs.

It’s important to note that even if a parent doesn’t have custody, they still have a legal obligation to support their child financially. 

A parent cannot refuse to pay child support because they don’t have custody or visitation rights. Similarly, a custodial parent cannot deny visitation rights if the noncustodial parent is not current on child support payments.

The Impact of Adultery on Visitation Time Can Impact The Amount of Child Support

Like custody decisions, visitation time is based on the child’s best interests. However, if the unfaithful parent’s new partner is deemed to have a negative influence on the child or if the home environment they provide is unstable or inappropriate, it may lead to restrictions on visitation. 

The court could rule to limit the time the child spends with this parent or restrict the new partner’s presence during visitation.

Child support payments are determined by statutory guidelines that consider the parents’ incomes, the number of children, the amount of time each parent spends with the child, and other factors.

If adultery impacts the custodial parent’s financial situation—for example, if the unfaithful parent was the primary breadwinner and the family separated due to the affair—the non-adulterous parent may be granted more child support.

Tim’s Legal Tip: If the adultery decreases the adulterous parent’s visitation time, this will affect the child support calculations. Generally, a parent who has the child for less time will owe more child support.

A Real Legal Story of How Adultery Impacted Child Support

I was involved in a case where a husband and wife were married for eight years and had two young children. 

However, their marriage took a turn when the husband started an affair with a coworker. The affair became serious, and the husband eventually moved in with his new lover, leaving the wife devastated and the children confused.

During the divorce proceedings, the wife’s attorney argued that the husband’s decision to live with his new lover had a detrimental impact on the children’s emotional well-being and stability. 

Recognizing the importance of maintaining a stable environment for the children, the court limited the husband’s visitation time.

Due to the limited visitation time, the court recalculated the child support obligation. The court determined that with reduced time spent with the children, the husband’s financial contribution needed to be adjusted accordingly. 

The child support obligation was increased to account for the reduced time the husband spent with the children and to help cover the costs of providing stability and care during the limited visitation periods.

In this case, the affair led to limited visitation time for the husband and increased child support obligation. The court prioritized the children’s well-being and ensured the financial support reflected the reduced time the husband spent with them.


Q. Does proving adultery guarantee a higher child support award?

No, proving adultery does not guarantee a higher child support award. While adultery can be a factor considered by the court, the primary focus remains on the child’s best interests and financial needs.

Q. Can adultery affect child custody arrangements?

Adultery can indirectly influence child custody arrangements, as it can impact a parent’s credibility and character assessment. However, custody determinations are separate from child support calculations.

Q. Is adultery relevant in a no-fault divorce state?

Even in no-fault divorce states, where divorce can be granted without assigning blame, adultery can still be considered a factor when determining child support if it significantly impacts the adulterous parent’s finances.

Q. How can a family law attorney help in cases involving adultery and child support?

A family law attorney with experience in child support cases can provide valuable guidance and representation. They can help navigate the legal complexities, present relevant evidence, and advocate for the child’s best interests.

Q. Can mediation be an alternative to litigation in adultery and child support cases?

Mediation can be an effective alternative to litigation in adultery and child support cases. Mediators can assist in finding mutually acceptable solutions that prioritize the child’s well-being while addressing both parents’ financial concerns.


In conclusion, while adultery does not directly impact child support, it can influence factors that the court considers when deciding on custody and visitation, which can indirectly affect child support amounts.

It’s important to note that these impacts can vary widely based on specific state laws and the discretion of individual judges. 

In some jurisdictions, courts may not consider adultery at all when making custody or support decisions, while in others, it may play a more significant role. It’s always recommended to consult with a family law attorney in your state for advice specific to individual circumstances.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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