Can a Lover Be Compelled to Testify in a Divorce Trial About Adultery?

In general, a lover can be compelled to testify at a divorce trial if they have relevant information that is not privileged or protected by law. 

This means that if the lover has knowledge of the alleged adultery and that knowledge is relevant to the case, they can be required to testify in court.

There are a few exceptions to the general rule, which we will explore later in the article. 

How Does the Court Compel a Lover to Testify?

The court can compel someone to testify in a few different ways. The most common method is to issue a subpoena

subpoena is a written order that requires a person to appear in court and testify under oath. 

When a subpoena is issued, it is typically served on the individual in person by a process server or sheriff’s deputy. The subpoena will include information about the court appearance’s time, date, and location.

If you receive a subpoena, you must legally comply with its terms. Failure to comply with a subpoena can result in legal penalties, such as fines or imprisonment.

Can a Lover Refuse to Testify?

There are certain circumstances under which a lover can avoid testifying. 

For example, if the lover’s testimony would incriminate them in a crime, they may have a right to invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refuse to testify.

There have been cases I have been involved in where a witness has exercised their Fifth Amendment privilege to prevent testifying about adultery. 

While the witness did not have to give the details of the affair, it is worth noting in each of those cases, the judge still found that an affair had occurred. 

 In most states, if an individual is asked specific questions about the alleged adultery and chooses to assert their Fifth Amendment privilege in response, the court may draw negative inferences about the credibility of their testimony or their potential involvement in the alleged adultery. 

Ultimately, the court will weigh all of the evidence presented in the case to determine the issues before it, including whether adultery has been established as grounds for divorce.

To Find Out If Adultery Is Illegal In Your State, You Can Look This Article

If a Lover Testifies During My Divorce Trial, Will I Automatically Lose My Case? 

Evidence of an affair does not necessarily mean that you will lose your divorce case. 

Adultery can be considered grounds for divorce in many states. Still, its impact on the outcome of the case will depend on several factors, including the specific laws of the jurisdiction, the strength and relevance of the evidence, and the other issues being litigated in the case.

In many cases, evidence of an affair may have little or no impact on the division of property or the determination of child custody or support, particularly if the affair did not directly impact the marital assets or the well-being of the children. 

However, if the affair had a significant impact on the marital finances or the ability of one spouse to provide for the children, it may be relevant to those issues and affect the outcome of the divorce. 

Examples of When An Affair Can Impact The Outcome of a Divorce

I have seen many cases where adultery has dramatically impacted the outcome of a divorce. 

In several cases, we have proved that the spouse’s infidelity led to the marriage breakdown, that the spouse spent money and gave gifts to the lover. 

The court, in those cases, awarded a larger alimony and property settlement to compensate for the financial harm suffered because of the affair.

Similarly, I have had cases where an affair has impacted child custody cases. In those cases, we successfully argued that a parent’s adultery was a reflection of poor judgment and a lack of moral character, which the court used to grant custody to our clients. 

Are There Any Circumstances Where a Judge Will Refuse to Allow Testimony About an Affair? 

In some circumstances, a court may refuse to allow evidence of an affair in a divorce trial.

For example, in some states, evidence of adultery may be excluded if it was obtained illegally or improperly. For instance:

  • Hacking into their spouse’s email or social media accounts without permission.

  • Secretly recording conversations or phone calls without the other person’s knowledge or consent.

  • Placing hidden cameras or other surveillance devices in the spouse’s home or workplace without their knowledge.

These actions may violate laws regarding privacy, wiretapping, or other areas of criminal law, and any evidence obtained through such means may be excluded from consideration in a divorce trial.

Similarly, evidence deemed irrelevant or unfairly prejudicial may also be excluded. Courts may consider the impact of admitting evidence of an affair on the parties involved, particularly the children. 

If the court determines that the admission of such evidence would cause undue harm or humiliation, it may exclude it from consideration.

Finally, some jurisdictions have “no-fault” divorce laws, which mean that evidence of fault, such as adultery, is generally not relevant to the divorce proceedings. 

In these cases, the court may exclude evidence of an affair if it is not directly related to issues such as property division, alimony, or child custody.


Q. Can a Lover Testify in Writing?

In general, written statements, and even affidavits, are considered hearsay evidence and are subject to objections by the opposing party. 

The court will not allow a written statement to come into evidence unless the letter’s author is available for cross-examination.

If you are considering submitting a written letter to the court in a divorce case, it is essential to consult with an experienced attorney who can advise you on the rules of evidence and how best to present your case. 

Q. Can a Lover Testify Anonymously?

It is highly unlikely that a lover would be allowed to testify anonymously in a divorce trial. 

In most cases, the court requires that witnesses provide their names and other identifying information to ensure that their testimony can be properly evaluated and challenged by the opposing party.

There may be some limited circumstances in which a witness could be allowed to testify anonymously, such as if they have a reasonable fear for their safety or if there is a risk of retaliation or harassment. 

Such cases are rare and would require a compelling showing of the need for anonymity. I can personally say I have never had a case where a party has been allowed to testify anonymously. 

Q. Can a Lover Testify About Private Matters?

Yes, a lover can be forced to testify about private matters if the information is relevant to the case. 


In conclusion, a lover can be forced to testify at a divorce trial, but the rules and regulations regarding testimony can vary from state to state. 

If you are going through a divorce and have questions about testimony, speaking to an experienced divorce lawyer is essential. They can help you understand the legalities involved and ensure that your rights are protected.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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