Does Adultery Impact the Outcome of Divorce?

Posted on: October 20th, 2021

Though there can be many personal reasons to end a relationship with your spouse and unfortunately, adultery continues to be one of the most common causes of divorce.


Adultery is one of the five reasons that the law accepts as just grounds with which to end a marriage. Other reasons include: 


  • Unreasonable Behaviour 
  • Desertion 
  • Separation for more than two years (if your spouse agrees to end the marriage)
  • Separation for more than five years (with or without your spouse’s agreement)


There are time limits to citing adultery as your reason for divorce. You will need to submit your divorce petition within six months of when you became aware of the adultery. It should be known that you can no longer cite adultery as your reason to divorce if you continued living with your unfaithful spouse for longer than six months after the adultery was committed. If you do, it is legally considered that you have accepted the adultery. It is recommended that you or your spouse leave the family home if you plan to divorce following their infidelity as sharing a house and living costs suggest the relationship is still stable. 


If separating during divorce proceedings may have practical or financial limitations, it may be worth considering creating a separation agreement. If there are children or dependents involved, it is best that the divorcing couple discuss their needs and come to a civil arrangement with family law specialists.


The relationship between adultery and divorce can be a complicated, emotional one. In many cases, your partner is reluctant or refuses to admit any unfaithful activity. Without any proof, it is generally recommended that you choose to say the marriage has been ended by ‘unreasonable behaviour’ rather than attempt to prove adultery. 


Unreasonable behaviour can define a great many tensions within a marriage. As adultery is legally defined as the sexual relationship between a man and woman outside of marriage, many same-sex couples are obliged to cite unreasonable behaviour as the reason their marriage ends. It is also more likely that your spouse doesn’t object to accusations of unreasonable behaviour rather than those of adultery. If they object, they could choose to defend the divorce, making the process longer and more expensive. 


In the case that you are the one who has committed adultery and now wishes to end your marriage, perhaps to pursue a relationship with the object of your affair, you cannot cite adultery as the reason. In this scenario, you would be likely to cite unreasonable behaviour. It is important to be aware that if your spouse is suddenly accused of unreasonable behaviour without a prior conflict or separation, they could choose to argue against you. This would lead to conflict and legal expenses. 


While adultery can make a divorce more contentious and harder for the friends and families involved, in legal terms, the concept that the financial settlement is impacted by one or both partners committing adultery is a myth. This misconception arises as people assume the reason for a divorce might impact the settlement but it is actually the case that these elements are handled separately. The reason for your divorce should not have any financial impact, whether it is done through a voluntary agreement between the couple or through legal proceedings. 


If you would like any further advice or support with a divorce or separation, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert team here at Cygnet Law.


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If you require any of our legal services or you're not sure where to get started, please contact us at our Redcar High Street office and our solicitors will guide you every step of the way.

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