Adultery and its Effect on Divorce

You may assume that adultery is the most common reason for divorce, however in 2019, it only amounted to 9.4% of divorces in the UK. There are factors that go into why this is, including: the difficulty in proving adulterous behaviour, and what is actually classed as adultery.

If you are seeking professional advice then a divorce solicitor like Carole Nettleton can help. The following is a breakdown of the effect adultery has on divorce.

What is considered adultery by law?

We all know an act of adultery is when a married person is unfaithful to their spouse, but what is the lawful definition when it comes to divorce?


  • The definition is simply: when a married person has sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex that isn’t their spouse and their spouse cannot continue to live with them.


This means that emotional affairs, sexual activity other than intercourse, and even engaging in sexual intercourse with the same sex, is not considered adultery by law in the UK. Another thing to note is that you must file for divorce within six months if you are using adultery as the reason. This is because the court will assume you can tolerate living with your spouse and therefore dismisses the ground for divorce.

How does adultery affect the divorce process?

Usually, using adultery as the reason for divorce can complicate matters. As this is a fault-based divorce, the party accusing their spouse of adultery will have to provide sufficient evidence in court. Gathering evidence that is admissible can be a difficult task and may create a lot of tension. The most acceptable form of evidence is providing a witness, although the easiest outcome is when the accused will admit to it themselves.

Will I be financially better off in the divorce if my ex-spouse committed adultery?

There is a common misconception that when one party has been proven to have committed adultery that they will end up with less than their fair share of financial assets. This is untrue as in most cases, the court will treat a divorce on the grounds of adultery just like any other divorce. A 50/50 split is the aim for the financial settlements of divorces. Although, if it is proven that one party committed adultery then they may have to pay for the divorce in full.

Deciding to go through a divorce is a very emotionally distressing time for those involved. If you are currently going through this then it’s important to seek the right advice and maintain rational throughout. A family divorce solicitor can help you navigate this tricky process, whatever you decide on.





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