Will Cheating Affect My Divorce Case?
There are few things in life more painful than going through a difficult divorce. Just like no two people are exactly alike, no two divorces are quite the same, and they can happen for a number of reasons. Some of these are mutually agreed upon by both partners, but in other cases, divorce can happen due to the actions of just one spouse. In cases of infidelity, often the slighted partner may think, “How does cheating affect my divorce?” or “Is adultery grounds for divorce?”
Unfortunately, there are no simple answers to these questions. The best thing you can do is meet with a skilled family law attorney who can evaluate your specific circumstances and provide you with tailored legal advice. If you’re in the Franklin, Tennessee, area or anywhere throughout Middle Tennessee, including Murfreesboro and Nashville, reach out to us at Middle Tennessee Family Law.
Divorce in Tennessee
Each state sets its own laws for marriage and divorce, and these will affect how you go about yours. In Tennessee, you don’t need a reason to divorce your spouse other than simply having “irreconcilable differences.” However, there is an option under state law that allows for certain “grounds” for an at-fault divorce; one of these is adultery. Importantly, cheating is not a crime in the state, but it can be one factor that is considered in court when deciding issues like child support, alimony, and division of assets.
Ways That Adultery Might Factor In
There are three main ways that adultery may factor into a judge’s decision about your divorce. It should be noted, however, that just because your spouse cheated on you does not automatically mean you’ll be awarded more money or assets. You should never assume that a judge will weigh this in their decision-making, no matter how hurtful or destructive the actions of your spouse were to your relationship.
The most common way it can affect the outcome of your divorce is through alimony (spousal support). Alimony is never automatically awarded, even in cases of adultery. Additionally, state law prohibits punitive alimony, so you can’t simply ask for more money from your spouse because they betrayed you.
It can, however, still play a role if the judge takes into account the “relative fault” of one partner over another. It may also be considered if you could show that your cheating spouse used marital funds to pay for their extramarital affair. Perhaps they used a joint account or credit card to buy jewelry, trips, or gifts for their paramour. In these cases, a judge may decide to award more money to the slighted spouse to make up for this irresponsible spending.
This can also be the case when a couple is dividing assets. Typically, assets should be divided equitably between the two spouses, but if one spouse wasted the couple's finances on their affair, a judge could easily decide to give a larger share of the assets to the other spouse.
Lastly, adultery may be considered when making child custody or child support decisions. In almost all cases, infidelity won’t be enough of a reason to keep someone’s child away from them— after all, it was the spouse who was cheated on, not the child. However, a judge will look at the “moral character” of each parent when deciding cases like this, and depending on how egregious the actions were, they could weigh these in their ruling.
Living With Someone Else While Divorce Is Pending
One last concern to address is how living with someone else while a divorce is pending may affect the outcome of it. This is a difficult topic to navigate, but it can have a significant impact on financial matters. And, it’s often the case when one spouse cheats on the other that the cheating spouse will go on to live with this new partner after the divorce is final or even when the divorce is still pending.
Many times, alimony payments will be stopped once the receiving spouse goes on to live with another partner. This is because alimony is intended as temporary aid to help someone get back on their feet and establish a solid income stream. So, when they move in with someone else, it’s assumed that they’ll now be splitting major expenses like rent with someone else and will have less need for financial support.
In other cases, if the cheating spouse chooses to live with their new partner while the divorce is pending, a judge may decide that they’re squandering what’s still considered joint assets, and in turn, award the other spouse more.
Don’t Face Divorce Alone. Call Now.
Divorces are messy and complicated, even under the most ideal conditions. The best thing you can do for yourself is hire a qualified divorce attorney in Tennessee who understands the law and will fight on your side for what’s fair. If you’re looking for a lawyer in the Franklin, Tennessee, area, call us at Middle Tennessee Family Law today to schedule a consultation.