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Tennessee General Law Blog

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How Can an Extramarital Affair Affect a Divorce Case in Tennessee?

Cheating Spouses Might Pay in More Than One Way

Once upon a time, a couple could only get divorced if one of them proved the other was at fault. There are many grounds for fault, including adultery.

Today, most couples divorce by claiming irreconcilable differences. However, an extramarital affair can still play a role in a divorce. Whether or not you should raise this issue, however, depends on the circumstances and what you hope to accomplish. Discuss your goals with a Manchester divorce attorney.

Fault-Based Divorce

You can still claim adultery as a ground for divorce. However, you will have to prove adultery, which is typically defined as a sexual act with someone other than your spouse. So, if your husband has had a sexual affair with his secretary, you will need to prove that by a preponderance of evidence.

The requirement to come forward with evidence is one reason few people raise fault when filing. Instead, they claim “irreconcilable differences.” Should you choose to claim fault, you must realize that an “emotional affair” does not qualify. Instead, you will need some sort of concrete evidence that your spouse and someone else had sexual relations. This evidence could be testimony from someone who saw them leaving a hotel together, or romantic emails.

Child Custody

Adultery can come into play when a judge decides child custody. Parents can always agree to their own custody arrangement, but when they cannot, a judge will decide custody based on the “best interests of the child.” Judges are empowered to consider all relevant factors in this analysis, including adultery.

Judges differ in how much weight they give adultery. If a person had a one-time affair, then it might not carry much weight at all. However, someone moving in with a new partner before the divorce is through could see their new partner’s personal and criminal history introduced for the court’s inspection. Judges might consider an extramarital affair to be proof of poor judgment.


Alimony serves different purposes in Tennessee. Increasingly, judges award alimony for a short term to help a spouse get rehabilitated so that he or she can be self-supporting. However, judges can consider fault, including an extramarital affair, when deciding whether to award alimony and, if so, how much and for how long.

Increasing an alimony award is often a good strategy, especially if you have rock-solid proof of fault. If not, then claiming adultery could simply be a waste of time.

Division of Marital Property

Judges divide marital assets equitably, or fairly. Fault is not a factor for considering what is fair. Nevertheless, if one spouse dissipated assets on a romantic partner—elaborate trips, expensive jewelry, etc.—then a judge can consider this waste of marital assets when dividing what remains. The key will be properly documenting how much your spouse spent on a paramour.

Contact Us Today

If you suspect adultery, you need solid proof before making an allegation in court. Let a Manchester divorce attorney at The Law Offices of Burch, Morrison, & Stewart help. Call us to schedule an initial consultation.

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