Infidelity is one of the most emotionally draining issues in a divorce. When the trust between spouses has suffered such a blow it can color everything in the divorce. Understanding where infidelity does and does not come into the equation in a divorce can help keep the process organized and help divorcing couples know where to place their priorities.
When is infidelity important?
Infidelity can potentially be important in three areas:
- It can be the fault basis for the divorce. If the parties cannot agree on the grounds for divorce, then it is sometimes necessary to prove infidelity.
- Fault is one of nine factors that a judge must consider in determining alimony. However, fault is the only discretionary factor (meaning the judge can choose to disregard it). Generally, judges consider fault for the breakup of the marriage. So, if the unfaithful spouse’s infidelity caused the marriage to break up, that is usually when the judge will consider it. It is also relevant if the unfaithful spouse was spending substantial sums of money on their extra-marital partner.
- Finally, in some religions (such as Catholicism) infidelity must be the basis for the divorce before the Church will sanction it.
When is infidelity NOT important?
Infidelity will not be considered by the judge in two areas:
- Fault is not considered when the judge divides property. If the unfaithful spouse improperly spends money on their new partner during the divorce, the judge can adjust the division accordingly, but the cheating spouse will not be penalized with less than an equitable division of assets just because they cheated.
- A judge will not consider infidelity when making a custody determination. The sole question the judge must answer is “what is in the best interests of the children?” Just because someone was a bad spouse does not necessarily make them a bad parent.
If your spouse in being unfaithful, you’re likely in an emotionally overwhelming place. An experienced Knoxville divorce lawyer can help walk you through each step of the process and help take the stress out of a divorce.