Suppose you feel that your spouse has abandoned you emotionally and “checked out” of the marriage in favor of another person. In that case, you may wonder if you can file for divorce on the grounds of alienation of affection in Texas.
Unfortunately, Texas is not one of the U.S. states that allow divorce on these grounds. In fact, the Texas Family Code calls this out, saying that “Alienation of Affection is not authorized” to be the reason to dissolve a marriage.
The law goes on to say that “a right of action by one spouse against a third party for alienation of affection is not authorized in this state.”
However, this does not mean you can’t get divorced if your spouse has emotionally removed themselves from the marriage. You may just have to file on different grounds. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.
The Grounds for Divorce in Texas
Texas is a no-fault divorce state, which means you do not have to prove that either spouse did anything wrong to pursue a divorce. You simply have to state that the marriage has become “insupportable” due to differences or conflicts that cannot be resolved.
However, if one spouse wants to fault the other for the divorce, there are six other grounds to base a divorce petition. They include:
- Conviction of a felony
- Living apart
- Confinement in a psychiatric hospital without the likelihood of recovery
Choosing to fault the other spouse may make the divorce process more contentious, but it can also affect the outcome of decisions like property division, child custody, and spousal support.
For instance, if you can prove that your spouse committed adultery with another person, the court may be more likely to award you a larger share of the marital property. And if cruelty is involved, the court may be more likely to award more favorable parenting time to the spouse who was not at fault.
How Does Alienation of Affection Factor Into a Divorce?
Alienation of affection is when a third party causes a spouse to become alienated or estranged from the other spouse. In other words, the third party’s interference has caused damage to the relationship to such an extent that the relationship has been irreparably harmed.
The third party is most commonly an extramarital lover, but it could also be a close friend, family member, or anyone else who has managed to come between the spouses.
While alienation of affection is not an official ground for divorce in Texas, it may still be used as evidence of fault in some divorce cases. The reason is that alienation of affection is often linked to adultery, which is a fault ground for divorce in Texas.
Alienation of affection may also fall under the category of cruelty – another fault ground for divorce. Cruelty requires that one spouse commit an act that renders further living together unsafe or unendurable.
So, if a third party has caused such emotional distress in a marriage that it is no longer safe or tolerable, then alienation of affection may be considered cruelty.
Some states also recognize alienation of affection as a tort, meaning it can be the basis for a civil lawsuit. In alienation of affection suits, a spouse can sue the third party for damages. The Texas Family Code explicitly prohibits Texas residents from taking this type of action, but a similar tort does exist.
The related tort is called “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” and it allows someone to sue for damages if another person intentionally or recklessly causes them severe emotional distress.
Loss of consortium is another type of tort that may apply in these situations. It allows a spouse to sue a third party if they are unable to have a normal marital relationship following their spouse’s injury or death due to the negligence of a third party.
Proving Alienation of Affection in Texas
In states where alienation of affection is a tort, the spouse would have to prove that the third party:
- Intentionally interfered in the marriage
- Caused the alienation or estrangement
- Did so for malicious reasons
Texas courts may look at similar factors when considering alienation of affection as evidence in a divorce. However, because alienation of affection is not an official ground for divorce in Texas, there is no set standard for what needs to be proven. Instead, the elements of proof required will depend on the specific ground the spouse is using for their divorce.
For example, if the spouse is faulting the other spouse for cruelty, they will need to show that the third party’s interference caused such emotional distress that it made living together unbearable. The required evidence will include proof of the third party’s actions as well as how those actions impacted the marriage. The following evidence is critical:
- Eyewitness testimony.
- Text messages.
- Other forms of communication between spouse and third party.
If the spouse is faulting the other spouse for adultery, evidence of the third party’s interference may not be as important. This is because adultery is generally proved through evidence of an affair, like testimony from a witness or love letters.
So, if one spouse can prove that the other spouse had an affair, they may not need to provide as much evidence of the third party’s interference. However, evidence of the third party’s interference may still be relevant if it is used to show that the affair was not a one-time thing.
In any case, strong evidence of an affair will be necessary to prove adultery. The following evidence is important to gather:
- Hotel receipts.
- Credit card bills.
- Love letters.
- Video footage.
It’s important to note that simply having a close relationship with someone else is not enough to prove adultery. There must be evidence that the relationship was sexual in nature.
Find Help From a Texas Family Law Attorney
If alienation of affection in Texas has driven a wedge in your marriage, you may be considering a divorce. An experienced Texas family law attorney such as myself can help you navigate divorce and protect your interests.
When you turn to my law office, I will review your situation and help you determine which ground for divorce is best for your case. I will also help you gather the evidence you need to prove your case and fight for a favorable outcome.
I currently help husbands and wives in in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, schedule a consultation to discuss your situation.
Contact my offices today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660. I am available to help you determine the best course of action in your situation.