Demi Moore announced her intention to divorce Ashton Kutcher, her husband of over six years. A San Diego woman had publicly claimed she had an affair with Kutcher several weeks earlier, leading to reports of trouble in the marriage. Both Moore and Kutcher have expressed remorse and regret over their split. Celebrity marriages and break-ups are familiar to most California divorce lawyers, but this case offers a glimpse into how "fault"-based concepts like adultery could still factor into the divorce process, but often do not.
Moore and Kutcher married on September 24, 2005, after a tabloid-fodder two-year romance. The media made much of the 15-year age difference between the 40-something Moore and the 20-something Kutcher, but they settled into the role of a Hollywood couple soon after their wedding. This is Kutcher's first marriage and Moore's third. Moore was previously married to actor Bruce Willis from 1987 to 2000, with whom she has three children. They started a charitable organization, the Demi and Ashton Foundation, earlier this year to combat child sex slavery and human trafficking.
Problems began when a San Diego woman alleged that she had unprotected sexual intercourse with Kutcher. This allegedly occurred at the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown San Diego after a night of partying on September 24. It may be worth noting that this was Moore and Kutcher's sixth wedding anniversary. The woman claims that Kutcher told her at the time that he was separated from Moore. While the adultery allegation may not be the sole cause of the couple's split, it did not help the situation.
California adopted "no fault" divorce decades ago. As such, adultery is not a significant issue for a court in determining whether or not to grant a divorce. The California Family Code lists only two grounds for granting a divorce: "irreconcilable differences" and "incurable insanity." As a general principle, adultery is also not a substantial factor in determinations of child custody, support, and property division. It could be an issue where one spouse expended marital resources on the affair, such as using funds from a joint bank account on gifts for the paramour or spending community money on hotel rooms or other affair-related costs. If an adulterous relationship adversely affects the children of a marriage, that may also be a factor for a court to consider. Taken by itself, however, the simple fact (or allegation) of adultery often has little effect on a divorce proceeding.