What Happens in a Divorce if you Commit Adultery in the UK?


The question – What Happens in a Divorce if you Commit Adultery in the UK? is a complicated one that we answer very regularly. This article should explain the basics surrounding this; however, if you need further guidance, our team of expert Family and Divorce lawyers will be happy to consult you. 

Adultery – A factor to prove irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage

Fault-based divorce is still the basis of bringing legal proceedings to terminate a marriage or civil partnership in England and Wales. Adultery is voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse or civil partner. So If a married person did commit adultery and there is an admission of such adultery in the divorce proceedings brought about by the other party, the divorce can go through without difficulty, and indeed without naming the person with whom the adultery had taken place.

There is only one ground for divorce or termination of a civil partnership, and that is the irretrievable breakdown of marriage proved by one of the five facts, three of which are fault-based, namely, adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion without the consent of the party who has been deserted.

Can a person bring divorce proceedings based on their own adultery?

The answer is that it is not possible for a person to bring divorce proceedings on their own adultery. If this was possible, it would give arbitrary rights to one party to bring a marriage to an end at their own whim with no checks and balances in place and with no independent evidence of whether, in fact, adultery had taken place.

What if there is a denial of adultery?

A denial of adultery brings with it problems which should be avoided at all cost. The burden of proof is on the person who alleges adultery has taken place. So if a party has mere suspicion that adultery by their partner has taken place, it would be unwise to issue proceedings based on only suspicion.

If the response is a denial, then the legal proceedings become defended and move up a level to high court proceedings, where both parties would have to give evidence, including any witnesses, and the judge will have to decide whether or not adultery had taken place. 

Suppose the judge concludes that no adultery had taken place on the evidence, and it was unreasonable for the petitioning party to bring such proceedings rather than issuing the petition on some other basis. In that case, the court can order the legal costs that have been incurred to be paid by the petitioning party, which could run into many thousands of pounds.

Alternatives to adultery

If there is a problem with the allegation of adultery, think of alternative bases to prove irretrievable breakdown of marriage such as unreasonable breakdown, and certainly, if there are reasons to believe adultery has taken place, but proof is difficult, then such allegations may form part of the fact of an unreasonable behaviour petition with other reasons. 

Desertion for a period of 2 years without the other party’s consent is another basis to commence divorce proceedings. Alternatively, separation of at least two years with the other party’s consent is an easy way to divorce, and last but not least, for parties who have been separated for at least five years, then a petition can be issued based on five years separation when consent by the other party would be irrelevant.

The Future – Changes in UK Family Law

The new Matrimonial divorce Act will come into force sometime in the Autumn of this year (2021) and will get rid of fault-based divorce, so it will be simple for parties to divorce without acrimony and bad feelings towards one other.

How Gulbenkian Andonian can help?

Our team of Family Lawyers London can advise you on the delicate question of what happens in a divorce if you commit adultery in the UK? We have decades of experience guiding clients through complicated and difficult divorce proceedings and have dealt with a whole plethora of cases, all with unique extenuating circumstances. If you choose us to advise and represent you, we will do our very best to protect your interests and fight your corner if and when a divorce proceeding arises and affects your relationship. 

Ask our Expert Legal Team

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    Neither Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors ltd, nor their employees, agents, consultants or assignees, accept any liability based on the contents of written articles which are meant for guidance only and not as legal advice. We advise all readers to take professional advice before acting. If you would like to consult with a professional lawyer or solicitor to discuss your case, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.