Ask A Divorce Lawyer: Does a post-separation affair have any bearing on the settlement?


I left my wife, and one month later I filed for divorce. I tried to reconcile with her but she wanted nothing to do with it. So after a couple months, I started seeing another woman. My wife has taken pictures of us together, pictures of her car at my place overnight, etc. Will a post-separation affair have any bearing on our settlement?  



Merely moving out of your home, absent more, is insufficient in most states for an “abandonment” charge, and merely having a relationship with another woman post-separation is insufficient to affect a property award. However, moving out and leaving your spouse financially strained and unable to support herself may constitute abandonment, and squandering your marital assets on a new love interest (e.g., by taking trips to the Bahamas or buying jewelry, etc.) will affect the property award.  
It is rare to see charges for abandonment or adultery used to affect divorce decrees, even in fault-based divorce states, however. The presumptions are that marital property is to be equitably divided, as near equal as possible, and spousal support should not be awarded unless the spouse needs it, without regard to fault. Property awards and support awards are not bases for punishment.  
More common are the emotional effects and the unnecessary litigation expenses they entail, usually at the prompting of the hurt spouse bent on getting revenge. For you, the bigger concern should be how much your wife wants to litigate the adultery in court – does she want a trial with fact witnesses to testify to every sordid detail? Does she want a psychological evaluation? Does she want to argue a motion that your affair had some effect on your marital estate? All of these could add financial and emotional “wrinkles” to the divorce process.  
Consider private divorce mediation to settle your divorce out of court. That way, your wife will have an opportunity to vent, but not in open court, and you will have the guidance of an experienced divorce mediator to help you focus on the issues: property division and support.
Keep in mind that I am a Michigan attorney and cannot give you detailed advice about the laws in Tennessee. You should not rely on this answer as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should contact an attorney in your area for additional information or representation. Cordell & Cordell, P.C. does have an office in Memphis, Tennessee.   





Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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