Tennessee Divorce Laws on Adultery

By Beverly Bird

You don’t have to prove marital misconduct to receive a divorce in Tennessee; the state offers the no-fault ground of irreconcilable differences. However, its statutes require that you and your spouse live apart for two years before you qualify for a no-fault divorce. Fault grounds don’t share the same restriction, which can make them an attractive option if your spouse has done something to end the marriage, such as committing adultery.

Adultery as Divorce Ground

When adultery occurs, and you use it as your divorce ground, it essentially waives any residency requirement for filing a petition. The law only requires that you live in Tennessee at the time your spouse strays. However, if you lived elsewhere when your spouse committed adultery, you’d have to establish residency in Tennessee for six months in order to file in the state. Technically, Tennessee’s statutes indicate that adultery is a divorce ground if either you or your spouse engages in an adulterous act.

Burden of Proof

If you’re filing on grounds that your spouse was unfaithful, the law in Tennessee says you must prove it. This can be tricky because Tennessee law does not allow you to photograph someone committing any act if he has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” at the time it occurred. The state also prohibits you from placing a GPS device on his car to determine that your spouse has met up with his paramour. However, you can hire a private investigator to photograph him with his paramour in public, and statements from witnesses are also admissible as evidence. You’ll probably need witnesses and documentation at the time of trial if your spouse contests your grounds.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Impact on Divorce Issues

Your spouse might contest your grounds because Tennessee allows judges to consider adultery when deciding issues of alimony. The law states that if your spouse earns more than you do, your standard of living after the divorce should not diminish because your spouse committed some wrongdoing, such as adultery, that ended your marriage. Judges may not include adultery as a factor when determining how to divide marital property, however.


If you’re the spouse who strayed, Tennessee law allows you some possible defenses to either contest the ground or mitigate its damage. If your spouse files for divorce, then immediately begins dating someone before your divorce is final, you can allege that she has committed adultery too. If she’s guilty of the same act, she loses the right to claim it as a divorce ground. If the two of you were intimate after she learned of your infidelity, Tennessee law considers this “condonation.” From a legal standpoint, she’s forgiven you. One of the more antiquated aspects of Tennessee’s divorce laws allows that if your spouse introduced you to “lewd society” that led you to loosen your morals, and you then committed adultery, you’re not to blame.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Adultery & Legal Rights


Related articles

Michigan No-Fault Divorce Law

Michigan is a true no-fault divorce state; you cannot receive a divorce on any other grounds. There aren't any fault options available. This makes filing for divorce relatively simple and contesting the divorce, itself, virtually impossible. However, in some cases, the court can still address a spouse's misconduct.

New York State Divorce Laws When a Spouse Has an Affair

Until 1967, adultery was the only grounds for divorce recognized by New York. The state’s code defines it as sexual intercourse between an individual and someone other than her spouse after their date of marriage, so an affair qualifies if the relationship was sexually consummated. However, the rest of New York’s laws pertaining to this divorce ground are not quite as simple.

How to Prove At-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania

Fault-based divorces are somewhat rare in Pennsylvania, especially since the state legislature amended Pennsylvania's Divorce Code in 2005, permitting couples to divorce by mutual consent, a form of no-fault divorce. Pennsylvania courts don’t consider marital misconduct when dividing property, so the consent option is usually the easiest, least stressful and least expensive method by which to end a marriage. If you nevertheless want to file for divorce on fault grounds, Pennsylvania law does not make the process easy.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Adultery & Divorce in Georgia

If your spouse engages in an extramarital affair and you want to sue her for divorce because of it, you might be more ...

How to File for Divorce After You Forgive Adultery

Fault-based divorce grounds can present a minefield of legal rules that may be difficult to navigate. Adultery is a ...

Tennessee Law on Bigamy & Divorce

The law is firm that you can't get married if you're already married to someone else. If you do, it’s bigamy – unless ...

Divorce & Abandonment Laws in Georgia

Georgia does not technically recognize ”abandonment” as a divorce ground, but this doesn’t mean your spouse can leave ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED