By Jedidiah McKeehan

I have many people come to me and tell me that they want a divorce and that their spouse is the one who cheated on them.  Most people believe that that fact entitles them to some great relief of some kind.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Only in very specific cases does the fact that one spouse cheated matter in divorces.  I can understand getting hung up on this issue, it is betrayal in the worst way.  However, for property division, and child custody purposes, the fact that one spouse cheated simply does not matter.

The only thing that “fault” plays into in the decision making process in a divorce is the awarding of alimony pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-5-121.  Most cases, due to the short length of the marriage, or the equal earning ability of the parties, are not cases in which alimony will be awarded.  And even then, “fault” is only one of twelve factors that the court is to consider.

So, when people come to me all worked up and tell me that their spouse has cheated on them and that they want me to state what happened to the court, I tell them I am certainly happy to take their money to do just that.  However, when you finally get to court and tell the judge how terrible the other person is, it will be you and your attorney sitting there, and the other person and their attorney sitting there (and they already know what they did), and the judge, who hears these stories all of the time.  There probably will not be another soul in the courtroom.

So, if you want to pay an attorney to go tell the story of the cheating spouse to someone who already knows about it, and someone else who does not care, that’s fine, but I would advise instead that you work toward getting your case favorably resolved instead of attempting to focus on making the other person look bad.

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