Being unfaithful is one of the main causes of marriages ending in the United States. However, when most people think about cheating and being unfaithful, they automatically think of the physical aspects.
While emotional cheating is real and can absolutely cause a marriage to end, the law currently does not consider emotional affairs as adultery. It is very important for Tennesseans who are going through divorces due to infidelity to know and understand this.
The difference between emotional and physical adultery
If you are wondering how you can tell the difference between emotional and physical adultery, there are a couple distinctive factors between the two that you can look for.
- When it comes to emotional adultery, the individuals have become romantically involved and have a strong emotional connection. Physical intimacy is not required for individuals to be emotionally attached to each other. Some of the common things that you will notice in an emotional affair are talking on the phone at all times of day, texting back and forth often, and possibly even meeting for food and drinks. However, some people meet others online who are states away and have emotional affairs with them for years before they are caught.
- Physical adultery involves physical contact. This means that the individuals meet in person often and have sexual contact. Therefore, when people find their spouse is having a physical affair, they typically notice that they have been away from home often, come across receipts, or notice suspicious bank withdrawals.
Grounds for divorce in Tennessee
According to Tennessee Code 36-4-101, there are 15 different grounds for divorce in Tennessee, and adultery is one of them. Other (potentially related) grounds for divorce include:
- Inability to have children
- Bigamy or polygamy
- Inhuman or cruel treatment*
- Pregnancy by another person
- Refusing to relocate to Tennessee after marriage
*Emotional adultery CAN constitute inappropriate marital conduct, which comes under the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment. It depends on your specific circumstances.
It is not uncommon for clients to visit our Maryville attorneys at Shepherd & Long to ask about their options when they believe their spouse is involved in an emotional affair. They are usually very hurt because their partner took advantage of their trust, and some even believe that emotional adultery is just as bad or worse than physical adultery.
Even though adultery is grounds for a divorce in Tennessee, we must break the news to clients that an emotional bond or attachment is not legally considered adultery. However, we may still be able to help if we can prove that there was desertion, absence, abandonment, inappropriate marital conduct, or neglect, as these are grounds for divorce.
As a matter of fact, the Tennessee statute states that desertion is “without a reasonable cause, for one whole year.” Therefore, if your spouse’s behavior or emotional affair caused them to abandon the marriage, we may be able to show proof of this.
Why do the grounds for divorce matter so much?
The grounds for divorce in Tennessee matter so much because they can impact the outcome of your divorce. Therefore, if one individual is found to be the reason that the marriage did not work out, it can affect many different factors going forward. Here are a few common factors that this may affect:
- Whether alimony will be awarded or not
- The amount of alimony that may be awarded
- Who will receive child custody
- The type of custody that will be given (primary or joint)
How to provide evidence of adultery
If your spouse committed adultery and you need to prove this, there are a few key pieces of evidence that we use to do this, such as:
- Video footage
- Text messages, emails, or chats about the affair
- GPS information
- Eyewitness testimonies
- Bank statements
- Hotel receipts
- Phone records
Most of this evidence is to prove physical adultery, as Tennessee does not mention emotional adultery as grounds for divorce.
Does adultery affect child support and child custody?
When it comes to child custody and support, the court’s main priority is to determine the best interest of the child. Therefore, since adultery is not a crime in Tennessee, it will instead be evaluated. The reason for this is because adultery is still frowned upon and looked at as having a lack of good judgment. That said, the parent who committed adultery can be considered an unfit parent and lose custody of their child.
Other factors that the court will take into consideration when making this decision are the parent’s ability to take care of the child, their ability to provide for the child, their involvement with the child, and more. Therefore, if the child’s best interest remains with the parent that committed adultery, the judge will prioritize this first.
Can you get alimony if your spouse commits adultery?
Alimony is financial support that a person may be required to pay during separation from their ex-spouse.
Marital fault is the main factor that Tennessee courts look at when awarding alimony. This can include cheating or adultery. Therefore, the judge may look at who is to blame for the marriage failing and why. If there is proof that adultery was the main reason for the marriage ending, the individual may be required to make alimony payments.
If you believe your spouse has committed adultery and are thinking about getting a divorce, please do not hesitate to reach out to Shepherd & Long today. Our Maryville attorneys will answer your questions, listen to your concerns, and help you develop a divorce plan that works best for you. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule an appointment.