Do I Automatically Get Alimony If My Spouse Cheats?
Most married couples would consider divorce the worst case scenario; no one marries with the expectation of getting divorced, and many couples fight for years to try to save their marriage from that conclusion. Unfortunately, even the most dedicated husband or wife may find themselves in divorce proceedings after the discovery that their spouse has been unfaithful.
The American Psychological Association estimates that somewhere between 20-40% of marriages end because of infidelity, and the AARP released a report in which 27% of respondents listed cheating as the top reason for their divorce.
When a marriage ends due to cheating, anger and resentment may be the leading emotions during divorce proceedings, and one partner may be looking to “take the other for all they’re worth,” so to speak. While there are circumstances where infidelity can affect the monetary outcomes of a divorce, unfortunately, a cheating spouse is not automatic grounds for alimony to be awarded. A cheating spouse will also not guarantee more spousal support is awarded to a spouse who would be receiving it for other reasons.
Let’s break down the basics of alimony (aka spousal support) in Tennessee before we get into the specifics of how adultery might affect alimony decisions.
Alimony: the basics
Alimony is typically money (but can also be property, in some circumstances) paid from one spouse to the other after they divorce. Alimony is not part of every divorce agreement, and is never guaranteed. Most couples that file for divorce will make their own decision about what, if any, alimony is fair and a judge will only step in if he or she feels it is necessary due to any number of factors. Alimony is typically paid from the more financially stable spouse to the less financially stable spouse, in order for that person to continue to live the lifestyle they had been living while married.
There are 4 different kinds of alimony in Tennessee:
- Transitional alimony – often paid during divorce proceedings, this type of alimony is a short term solution meant to help one spouse “transition” to single life (for instance, paying lawyer fees for the divorce).
- Rehabilitative alimony – paid to a spouse for a short period of time in order for him or her to prepare themselves for loss of their spouse’s income through education or training.
- Alimony in solido – a set amount of money that is paid all at once or in installments, it is not an ongoing arrangement.
- Alimony in futuro – what most people think of when they hear the word alimony, this is money paid to a spouse who does not earn as much as his or her former partner, in order for the person to maintain their standard of living. This money is paid on a regular basis until the receiving person remarries or one person dies.
As you can see by the different types of spousal support, it is based on the finances of each person in the marriage and how the divorce will affect those finances (and possibility for future earnings). For all four types of alimony, there are many factors that are considered when deciding the monetary amount to be awarded (such as any children the couple have and their needs, whether or not a spouse has foregone education or career advancement in order to provide for his or her family, whether or not one spouse earns significantly more than the other, etc.) While the reason for the end of the marriage is one of these many factors, a decision to provide alimony to one spouse will not be based solely on infidelity, and a judge will not award alimony as “payback” or because of emotions or morality.
So, does infidelity have anything to do with alimony?
Most of the time – no. In Tennessee, a cheating spouse is not automatic grounds for alimony, and while one spouse’s fault in causing the divorce can be a factor in negotiations and decision making, it is only one of a dozen factors that will be considered. And remember, most couples will make their alimony decisions together and a judge will not get involved unless necessary. While it may be tempting for the faithful spouse to want to “punish” the other, negotiations may come to a standstill and a judge may feel the need to get involved if the infidelity is the entire focus of the discussion.
Interestingly, although infidelity will not automatically grant alimony to the spurned party, it can become a reason for the cheating party to be denied alimony if he or she would otherwise qualify for it. In order for cheating to be used as a reason to deny alimony, the other spouse would have to prove to the court that the adultery happened and that it was the main reason for the dissolution of the marriage.
A good Maryville divorce lawyer is key
Clearly, alimony is already a complicated subject, and negative emotions that may come with the end of a marriage due to cheating will likely only make it more difficult. A good Maryville divorce attorney will not only be an expert on the laws but will also be able to act as a mediator while the couple tries to reach a fair and equitable financial conclusion to their marriage. When emotions are running high, it is best to depend on a lawyer you trust. At Shepherd & Long, P.C., we understand both the legal and the emotional aspects of divorce, and will act in your best interest to make sure you are financially protected.
When you have questions about divorce and alimony, it is important to speak with an experienced Maryville divorce attorney. Call the office of Shepherd & Long at 865-982-8060, or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment with a member of our team today. Proudly serving Blount County and all of East Tennessee.