By Jedidiah McKeehan

This question comes up in almost every single divorce case. No, no, no. You do not win. Unfortunately, the fact that your spouse cheated on you hardly even matters anymore in divorce cases because almost every single divorce case has at least one cheating spouse, if not two.

Cheating on your spouse, or the official term, “adultery,” does not affect the division of marital assets, or the custody of children.

Adultery can be a grounds, or reason, for seeking a divorce and as a basis for the award of alimony. That is it.

Because divorce is so commonplace these days, you may think that the court will grant a divorce to someone just by them asking for one. However, you actually have to prove to the court you have a reason for getting divorced and one reason under Tennessee law for getting divorced is that your spouse has committed adultery.

If someone files for divorce stating they want a divorce because their spouse has committed adultery, an old law states some reasons a spouse should not be found to have committed adultery.

Under Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-4-112, “If the cause assigned for the divorce is adultery, it is a good defense and perpetual bar to the same if the defendant alleges and proves that: (1) The complainant has been guilty of like act or crime; (2) The complainant has admitted the defendant into conjugal society and embraces after knowledge of the criminal act; (3) The complainant, if the husband, allowed the wife’s prostitutions and received hire for them; or (4) The husband exposed the wife to lewd company, whereby the wife became ensnared to the act or crime of adultery.”

Interesting law still on the books in Tennessee.

Finally, adultery is one of the twelve factors that the court is to consider in awarding alimony. The exact language of the law states “The relative fault of the parties.” Adultery can be typically blamed on one party, but remember, there are eleven other factors to consider. I have seen cases where the cheating spouse received alimony, so do not assume that adultery is a guarantee of alimony or an absolute bar to alimony.

Cheating is present in almost every single divorce case. Do not inflate its importance. It’s so prevalent that it rarely matters on a significant level.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including divorce, custody, criminal, and personal injury. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.