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What Constitutes “Adultery” in Texas?

Although unhappy couples can obtain a no-fault divorce in Texas, there are cases where one spouse wishes to pursue divorce based on adultery. But what exactly constitutes adultery in Texas? For instance, is a clandestine online relationship that does not involve physical sex a form of adultery?

The Standard of Proof for Adultery

Section 6.003 of the Texas Family Code states simply that a judge “may grant a divorce in favor of one spouse if the other spouse has committed adultery.” The statute itself does not define adultery. But Texas courts have long understood the term to refer to “voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with one not the spouse.” As a state appeals court in Dallas explained in a 2013 case, adultery “can be shown by direct or circumstantial evidence,” provided there is “clear and positive proof” beyond “mere suggestion and innuendo.”

So while your spouse flirting or exchanging provocative messages with someone else online is not, in and of itself, adultery, such actions may provide circumstantial evidence supporting the existence of an affair. You do not necessarily have to catch your spouse in the act of sexual intercourse. Nor do you need to prove adultery “beyond a reasonable doubt,” as it is not a criminal offense (at least not in Texas).

In the 2013 case mentioned above, for example, the court credited the wife’s finding another woman’s underwear and suitcase in her bedroom, together with film taken by a private investigator of the husband “hugging and kissing” in public, as evidence proving adultery.

Does Facebook Lead to Adultery?

Of course, in some cases you may not need a private investigator. Social media has made it much easier for people to discover where–and with whom–their spouse is socializing. As we all know, social media provides a false sense of privacy. Many spouses will blindly post evidence of themselves in potentially compromising positions, not thinking their spouse–or a divorce attorney–will ever notice. And even if a spouse is not actually cheating, an estranged spouse may use a social media post to fuel their own suspicions.

Indeed, according to a 2013 study by researchers at the University of Missouri, spouses who regularly use social media websites like Facebook “are far more likely to experience” conflict in their relationship, which in turn “may cause negative relationship outcomes including emotional and physical cheating, breakup and divorce.” The authors of the study, which focused on Facebook, said romantic partners were more likely to “monitor their partner’s Facebook activity,” especially among couples who have been in a relationship less than three years.

Do You Suspect Your Spouse Is Cheating? We Can Help

Social media does not cause adultery or divorce. But it can provide potential evidence of cheating. If you are contemplating divorce because you suspect adultery, it is important not to act alone. An experienced Houston divorce attorney can review your case and advise you of the appropriate steps to take next. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston, or League City to schedule a consultation with an attorney today.