There are often a variety of complex factors involved when a couple decides to end their marriage. If adultery is one of those factors, the divorce process that follows can be contentious. Does adultery actually have an impact on that divorce though? A Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains whether accusations of adultery affects the outcome of your divorce.
The Divorce Process – Fault vs. No-Fault
When one spouse initiates the divorce process, he/she must choose the grounds on which the divorce is sought. Like most states, Tennessee has a “no-fault” option that allows you to allege that you have “irreconcilable differences” when petitioning for a divorce. Tennessee also continues to recognize “fault” grounds in a divorce action, including the following:
- Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs
- Living apart for two years with no minor children
- Inappropriate marital conduct
- Willful or malicious desertion for one full year without a reasonable cause
- Conviction of a felony
- Pregnancy of the wife by another before the marriage without the husband’s knowledge
- Refusal to move to Tennessee with your spouse and living apart for two years
- Malicious attempt upon the life of another
- Lack of reconciliation for two years after the entry of a decree of separate maintenance
- Impotence and sterility
- Abandonment or refusal or neglecting to provide for spouse although able to do so
Alleging Adultery as Grounds for a Divorce
When irreconcilable differences are used as the grounds for a divorce the court will not require proof beyond your testimony under oath that the marriage cannot be saved. If you decide to use adultery as the grounds for your divorce (or your spouse does so), however, you will need to prove that adultery during the course of the divorce proceedings.
Adultery and the Division of Assets
One aspect of any divorce is the division of marital assets and debts. Tennessee requires an “equitable” division of marital assets in a divorce. That does not mean the division of property is required to be equal. Instead, the court is required to divide the marital property “equitably.” The court may start with a 50-50 division of marital property, but the court can deviate from that 50-50 split if doing so is justified. Although adultery alone is not considered when dividing the marital assets, if you can prove that your spouse’s adultery resulted in squandering marital assets it may result in a higher percentage of those remaining assets being awarded to you. Squandering assets might include buying gifts for the object of the adultery or spending money on trips with him/her.
Adultery and Alimony
Tennessee recognizes four types of alimony, or spousal support. When determining if a spouse is entitled to alimony the court can consider a number of factors, including fault. Alimony cannot, however, be punitive in nature. (Tait v. Tait, 207 S.W.3d 270 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006) In other words, adultery may be a factor when determining alimony but not if it is considered as a way to punish an adulterer.
Adultery and the Minor Children
All decisions relating to any minor children of the marriage must be made using the “best interest of the child” standard. Committing adultery does not, in and of itself, make someone a bad parent. If, however, that adultery has negatively impacted the children during the course of the marriage it may be taken into consideration when deciding who will be the primary residential parent and/or issues relating to parenting time. Allowing the children to know about the adultery or abandoning the children because of the adulterous affair, for example, could impact decisions related to the children in a divorce.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney
If you are contemplating divorce, or have already been served with divorce documents, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.