Life outside the kitchen is getting sticky for celebrity chef and restaurateur Bobby Flay, as he is locked in a contested divorce battle in Manhattan Supreme Court with his estranged wife, Stephanie March. March is no stranger to the courtroom setting, having played a prosecutor on Law & Order: SVU on and off for the past 15 years. But with bitter accusations and aggressive legal positions, it looks as though she and Flay’s divorce proceedings will be far more dramatic than any of her Law & Order: SVU plots. The prominent accusation thus far is that Flay has been guilty of adultery more than once during the couple’s 10 year marriage, including a 3-year affair with his assistant (an allegation which Flay has neither confirmed nor denied at this point). It remains unclear whether March had any involvement in a stunt earlier this month against Flay which involved a banner with the word “cheater” flying overhead as Flay received a star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But while the salacious details of an adulterous relationship can often become a hot button issue in divorce cases, does it really have an impact on the ultimate outcome of the proceedings?
Georgia still recognizes fault grounds for a divorce, and adultery is one of the 12 potential fault grounds that are considered under Georgia law. But aside for it being a legal ground for a divorce in Georgia, allegations of adultery can also play a central role in other components of a divorce case. For example, if a spouse is accused of committing adultery, and the Court determines that the adultery was the direct cause of the divorce, then that spouse is completely barred from receiving any alimony. However this statutory rule is often not helpful if the adulterer also happens to be the primary breadwinner – as in Flay’s case – as he or she would not have been a candidate for alimony anyway.
Another way that adultery can factor into a divorce case in Georgia is if one spouse depleted marital funds or assets in pursuit of the affair. Judges in Georgia have the discretion to divide the marital estate in an unequal manner (i.e., not 50/50) if the Court believes that one spouse is more deserving of more than 50% of the assets. Therefore, if one of the parties spent large sums of money on an adulterous relationship, the Court can and often will take that into consideration when dividing up the marital estate.
Finally, and an issue close to most attorneys’ hearts, is the issue of the attorney’s fees and expenses that each spouse incurs as a result of the divorce proceedings. If one spouse’s adultery contributed to the cause of the divorce, the Court can take that into consideration in awarding attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation in favor of the scorned spouse. So if Stephanie March is able to prove her allegation that Flay not only had affairs, but had a 3-year long affair with his assistant, he’s probably going to need to sell a lot of burgers in order to keep up with the costs of this divorce battle.