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Adultery and Divorce – What do I need to know?

Adultery and divorce together can give rise to many misconceptions about the divorce process, in part fuelled by the sensationalist press coverage of lengthy court battles fought out between divorcing celebrities or high net worth individuals.

As well as concerns about court costs (ending up in court to ask a judge to decide your financial settlement is actually not that common), clients often come to us asking how they can divorce on the grounds of adultery. Although we get lots of queries about this ‘reason’ for divorce, it is not as widely used as you may think. In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics’ latest data on the matter, the most common grounds for divorce in 2020 was unreasonable behaviour.


What is adultery?

Adultery is one of the five ‘facts’ that you can use to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Contrary to popular belief, in English law, your spouse must have had sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex. Note that the law specifies sexual intercourse – other types of sexual contact do not count as adultery in the eyes of the law.

It’s also worth noting that if you continue to live with your spouse for more than 6 months after you found out about their adultery, you will not be able to give adultery as a reason for your divorce.


You can commit adultery even after you’ve separated

Many people believe that a new relationship after separation (but not divorce) is not adultery. However, in the eyes of the law, you may still be committing adultery and therefore this could be used by your spouse in any divorce proceedings.


Will adultery make a difference to the financial settlement?

Contrary to popular belief, adultery in itself will not result in a better financial settlement  for the other spouse. This is because it does not alter financial needs.

Equally, adultery on a divorce petition will not alter the courts’ thinking when it comes to arrangements for any children involved.


Adultery can often be difficult to prove

It’s no coincidence that unreasonable behaviour was found to be the most common grounds for divorce by the ONS in 2015. This ‘reason’ for divorce can often be easier to prove than adultery.

Another reason why some people may opt for unreasonable behaviour rather than adultery, when it comes to the divorce petition, is that it can be less inflammatory and therefore can sometimes help to keep the divorce process more amicable.

If you want to cite adultery as the reason for your divorce, it is possible, but it is a good idea to seek advice from a solicitor to check if you have grounds for adultery.


Why does there have to be blame?

For many years now, there have been campaigns for a ‘no fault’ divorce in England and Wales. Some people believe that by creating a divorce process where no blame had to be apportioned, divorces could be dealt with in a more amicable and productive way.

Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen. If you are unsure about how to establish that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, it can be helpful to speak to an experienced solicitor about your concerns.


How can our expert divorce solicitors help you?

Our expert divorce solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues, including:

Contact our expert divorce solicitors to see how we can help with your divorce

For more information on the divorce process call our expert divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email

Our expert divorce solicitors offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in:

Leeds Office: Princes Exchange, Princes Square, Leeds, LS1 4HY

Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR

Halifax Office: Old Lane, Halifax, HX3 5WP

Huddersfield Office: Northumberland Street Huddersfield, HD1 1RL

Coventry Office: Warwick Road, Coventry, CV1 2DY

Canary Wharf Office: 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB

Please contact us for more details.

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15th August 2017

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