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Knoxville Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Divorce > What Is Marital Misconduct, and How Does It Affect Your Divorce Case?

What Is Marital Misconduct, and How Does It Affect Your Divorce Case?


The language of today’s court decisions about divorce reflects the idea that no one should win or lose in a divorce.  The goal is to reach a settlement that is fair to both parties.  When the parties have minor children, the best interest of the children is the guiding principle, and unless one parent has repeatedly behaved in ways that create an unsafe environment for children, such as one involving violence or illegal drugs, the courts prefer arrangements where the children can have a stable relationship with both parents.  Connected to this principle is the idea of no-fault divorce, which means that you do not have to convince the court that your spouse single-handedly ruined the marriage.  If you and your spouse want to divorce, the court will dissolve your marriage and consider each party’s earning potential and financial needs when dividing the marital property.  Marital misconduct, while not a requirement for divorce, still plays a role in some divorce court decisions.  If you are seeking a divorce because of misconduct on your spouse’s part, a Tennessee divorce lawyer can help you.

When Your Spouse Is the One Who Ruined the Marriage

In the old days, the courts used to treat divorce cases more like a lawsuit in which an injured party (the spouse filing for divorce) seeks a remedy (a divorce) from the party at fault (the spouse not filing for divorce).  Today, divorce decrees sometimes “grant a divorce” to the party who filed for the divorce, with the implication that the breakup of the marriage was the other spouse’s fault.  Most of the time, though, the judgment of dissolution of marriage simply declares the parties divorced.

Similarly, most divorce petitions simply cite “irreconcilable differences” as their reason for seeking a divorce; this means that they have decided that it is not possible for them to remain married.  Sometimes, though, the spouse filing for divorce cites “marital misconduct” on the other spouse’s part.  Marital misconduct is any action by which one spouse intentionally sabotages the marriage or the other spouse’s wellbeing.  The following are examples of marital misconduct:

  • Extramarital affairs
  • Hiding large amounts of money or debts from the other spouse
  • Physical or emotional abuse

Recent news reports have announced that reality TV stars Kristin Cavallari and Jay Cutler are seeking a divorce in Tennessee.  In her response to Cutler’s divorce petition, Cavallari alleged that Cutler committed marital misconduct.  While the divorce documents have not been made public, it appears that the marital misconduct Cutler allegedly committed took the form of controlling and cruel behavior toward Cavallari throughout their marriage.

If you can divorce even if there is no marital misconduct, why does it matter?  It sometimes plays a role in the court’s decision about parenting time or division of property.  For example, the court might award you some of the money that your ex kept secret from you in an effort to spend it on an extramarital relationship.

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

Bringing up marital misconduct in your divorce case isn’t about having the last word; it is about getting your fair share of marital property or parenting time.  Contact Knoxville divorce lawyer Patrick L. Looper for a consultation.




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