The law on divorce is changing on . At that point the only ground for divorce will be the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, it will no longer be necessary to provide a reason such as adultery. Read more about the introduction of no fault divorce here.
If you were to believe the media and popular TV culture, you’d think that adultery and divorce went hand in hand in the UK. In fact, adultery is used as the reason for the breakdown of just 10% of marriages in England and Wales*.
What is adultery?
For the purposes of divorce law in England and Wales adultery is committed when a married person has sex with someone of the opposite sex, other than their husband or wife.
You might be surprised to learn that having sex with someone of the same sex is not considered adultery in divorce in UK law. Someone in a same sex marriage or civil partnership is not considered to have committed adultery (in law at least) if they have sexual relations with someone of the same sex.
Of course, you may consider your partner has been unfaithful if they have a close emotional relationship with someone else that you feel is inappropriate. This would not be classed as adultery under UK law.
How does adultery affect a divorce in the UK?
From the nature of enquiries that we receive there is a perception that if a partner has committed adultery, it will in some way effect the divorce outcome, especially in terms of the financial settlement or arrangements made for the care of the children.
In reality adultery has very little impact on a divorce case , in legal terms at least. Using adultery as the reason for divorce can often make a case more complicated as if your spouse is unwilling to admit adultery you will need to try and prove that adultery has been committed, which can be difficult.
Who pays for divorce when there is adultery?
Where one party has committed adultery there is often a desire for that person to be punished and made to pay. The legal system is not set up to achieve this objective and as divorce lawyers we find ourselves having to explain that even if the other party has committed adultery, there won’t necessarily be any financial penalties for them.
It’s true that the divorce costs can often be borne by the offending party. This will mean the court fees and any associated solicitor fees for the divorce itself. However, it is very rare that the court will ever order that their spouse will have to pay more as part of a financial settlement because of their adultery.
What happens in a divorce if you commit adultery?
It is important to realise that if you are the person who has committed adultery you cannot use this as a reason for the divorce. It is only the ‘wronged’ party who can use adultery.
If you are the wronged party and wish to use adultery you will be required to prove that adultery has taken place unless your spouse is willing to admit adultery.
You will need to include details on the divorce petition, including the date that you found out that your ex committed adultery. This date must be less than 6 months from the date you apply for divorce.
If you have used adultery as the reason for divorce your ex will be required to admit to adultery on the form that is sent to them as part of the divorce process.