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A Guide to the Homewrecker Law in Tennessee

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How Does Your Spouse’s Cheating Impact Your Tennessee Divorce?

The breakdown of a marriage is always challenging and emotional. However, the process can become even more complicated and messy if you discover that your spouse was engaged in an extramarital affair. It is natural to be upset not only at your former spouse but also at the homewrecker who played a role in the disintegration of your marriage.

You may wonder if it is possible to seek justice through the court system for the harm they caused you. An experienced Tennessee divorce attorney can explain what you need to know about the state’s homewrecker laws and the ways the hurtful actions of your spouse could play a role in the court’s rulings in your divorce.

What is “Alienation of Affection”?

Alienation of Affection is a tort that can be brought against a person who deprives a married individual of the affection and love of their spouse. Essentially, through an Alienation of Affection lawsuit, you can take the person with whom your spouse had an affair (the “homewrecker”) to civil court to seek damages for the harm they caused you by destroying your relationship or marriage.

Alienation of Affection lawsuits can also be applied to individuals who encouraged or coerced your spouse into leaving you, even if there was no romantic relationship. However, adulterous relationships are the most common cause of these types of lawsuits.

Can You Sue a Homewrecker in Tennessee?

In a few states, such as North Carolina, it is still possible to bring a lawsuit against the individual your spouse cheated with. However, Tennessee abolished its “homewrecker” statutes on July 1st, 1989. While you cannot sue the person responsible for ruining your marriage, your spouse’s infidelity can still play a significant role in your divorce process.

What Influence Does Adultery Have on Your Divorce Proceedings?

Adultery is not only an emotional betrayal of your love and trust but also a breach of the marriage contract. This fact shifts a spouse’s cheating from a relationship issue to a legal consideration in your divorce. Although it is ultimately up to the judge to determine how cheating allegations influence the outcome of the case, strong evidence of infidelity and marital misconduct can potentially impact many areas of your divorce.

Adultery as Grounds For Divorce

While many states have shifted to only having no-fault divorces, Tennessee still allows for fault-based divorces. Of the 13 valid grounds for a fault-based divorce recognized by the state, two (adultery and inappropriate marital conduct) may be applicable if your spouse engaged in an extramarital affair. Conclusively proving adultery can be more challenging because it requires a preponderance of evidence of a sexual relationship.

Inappropriate marital conduct is often easier to demonstrate and is frequently cited as an alternative ground for the divorce. Even an emotional affair is considered inappropriate marital conduct. If either ground is proven to the court, the marriage will be dissolved by decree.

Impact on Division of Assets

Although the law does not allow judges to consider the misconduct of either spouse when dividing assets, there are some instances where an affair can impact the funds awarded to a spouse. For example, if one spouse spent large sums of marital funds on gifts and trips for the other individual in the affair, that amount may be subtracted from their portion of the assets. Receipts and credit card statements can be helpful in proving these allegations.

Alimony Implications

Adulterous affairs can have an effect on Tennessee alimony payments. The court considers many factors when awarding alimony, including the fault of both parties in the breakdown of the marriage. The court may choose to award reduced alimony to a spouse who engaged in marital misconduct or may even bar them from collecting any alimony at all. Conversely, an financially dependent individual who was cheated on may be more likely to receive the maximum amount of alimony from their unfaithful former spouse. However, this is entirely up to the court’s discretion.

Child Custody Considerations

The court bases its child custody and parenting plan arrangements on the best interests of the child. It can be argued that a parent who engaged in marital misconduct was not prioritizing their children’s mental and physical well-being, which may affect the court’s custody rulings. The court will consider the evidence presented for the parent’s misconduct and determine what impact, if any, it had or may continue to have on their child.

How Can a Family Law Attorney Assist You?

If you know or suspect that your soon-to-be-former spouse engaged in an adulterous affair, preserving any proof you may have of their actions is crucial. Texts, photos, letters, and emails can all be used to support your case and prove to the court that the alleged acts took place. You should also reach out to a trusted Tennessee divorce lawyer to discuss your case and determine your next steps. Your lawyer may mount an investigation to uncover the extent of your spouse’s misdeeds. While it may be painful to learn what actually happened, having strong evidence can be vital to the outcome of your divorce case, including the custody of your children and the amount of your alimony payments.

Although Tennessee law does not allow you to sue the individual who had an affair with your spouse, it does provide leeway for judges in divorce cases to factor in the effects of marital misconduct. If you have questions about how your spouse’s actions could play a role in your divorce, contact our professional lawyers for family disputes at the Law Office of Hibbeler & Associates today to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation: 931-236-2711.

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