A Presidential Scandal: Adultery and Divorce

According to TMZ, Donald Trump Jr - not the President of the United States of America, but his eldest child - is headed for divorce. TMZ has reported that Vanessa Trump, Donald Trump Jr's wife, has filed for divorce.

Donald and Vanessa were married in 2005, and they have five (5) children together.

Vanessa is supposedly seeking an uncontested proceeding, which likely means that the couple have already figured out the details of their split, i.e. child custody, support and/or property division.

Since news of this divorce broke, many have been speculating as to what caused Donald and Vanessa to end their nearly 13-year marriage. Some have attributed this break-up to Donald's alleged affair in 2011 and/or 2012 with Aubrey O'Day, a former Celebrity Apprentice contestant and singer in the girl group Danity Kane.

People Magazine has reported that Vanessa found out about Donald's infidelity when she found "sexy texts" on Donald's phone (which was left at the bedside table while he showered).

According to sources connected to the Trumps however, there were several factors that strained Donald and Vanessa's relationship, including but not limited to the fact that Vanessa supposedly hates politics. That said, it seems as though O'Day and the affair may not be to blame for this split. Sources have commented that "the divorce has been a long time coming," and "the relationship has been 'bad for a while.'" A source who socializes with Donald and Vanessa on the regular even noted that "the couple had been living 'separate lives' for a while."

But what if it was Donald's affair that ended this relationship? Well, if Donald and Vanessa lived in Ontario, fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your perspective) Donald's indiscretions would have very little effect on the parties' divorce proceedings.

In Canada, there are three grounds for the breakdown of a marriage - to bring a court application for divorce, a party must identify the "ground" on which they are seeking a divorce:

  1. cruelty,
  2. adultery, and
  3. separation.

With respect to adultery, it is important to note that the spouse that has the affair cannot apply under this ground (this means that Donald couldn't seek a divorce on the ground that he cheated on Vanessa). Additionally, the spouses cannot file a joint application and rely on adultery as the grounds for same.

Further, suspicion is not enough to prove adultery. A judge must infer from the evidence that adultery in fact occurred. One should be wary when considering adultery as a ground, as proving adultery can be difficult because section 10 of the Ontario Evidence Act states that no witness should be asked or bound to answer any question that may show that he or she is guilty of adultery.

Additionally, Canada has a "no fault" divorce regime - which simply means that, when determining parties' legal rights and obligations arising from a divorce (i.e. child custody and/or access, support, property division), the "fault" or blameworthiness of a spouse in the marriage's breakdown is generally not a factor taken into consideration. This restricts parties from blaming one another for the marriage's breakdown; and also means that a spouse will not be punished for their role in the breakup.

Given that the grounds of adultery (and cruelty) are fairly difficult to prove, separation (namely, living separate and apart for a period of at least one year) is the most commonly used ground for divorce.

And so, regardless of whether Donald's cheating was the cause of their divorce, it seems as though (if they were residents of Ontario) the affair would have very little - if any - effect on the legalities of their divorce.