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What happens in a divorce if you commit adultery

If you’ve committed adultery and your spouse is filing for a divorce, it’s fair to say that you’ll probably be feeling anxious about how your actions will affect the divorce process. Society, after all, persistently and mercilessly chastises those who engage in infidelity so it’s understandable that people in this very situation anticipate a punishment of some kind. Perhaps they’ll have to forego any claim that have to the marital home or will be expected to explain their actions to a judge before they’ll grant the divorce? However logical such assumptions may seem, however, they are ultimately incorrect.

A divorce reliant on adultery is, by-and-large, identical to a divorce reliant on any other ground. Yes, a few different boxes should be ticked and specific information needs to be provided but the forms are the same, should be submitted at the same time, are reviewed by the same individuals and are subject to the same timescales as any other application for a divorce.

As far as formulating a financial settlement goes, a spouse that committed adultery is, once again, at absolutely no technical disadvantage. A judge will happily approve any Consent Order (an order requesting that the court approve and make legally binding an agreement that the spouses have reached) provided it is reasonable and will not amend – or even suggest that a couple amend – their agreement for any reason.

The same is true if a couple are unable to agree how to divide their assets and, instead, need to ask a court to determine how things should be split. Again, many would assume that, as one party has effectively accepted that their actions led to the demise of their marriage, that their spouse will be entitled to a greater share of the marital assets, but this is not the case. Instead, a judge’s only instructions are to divide assets in a just and equitable manner that will allow both parties to continue to maintain the lifestyle to which they are accustomed as much as is practicable.

Why, then, is the spouse that is responsible for the divorce not face some degree of punishment? Because determining what causes a relationship to breakdown is ultimately a far more complex process than reviewing the contents of a document or focusing on a single or course of events.

The courts recognise that it is exceptionally rare that one party alone is responsible for the demise of a marriage and this is why it’s highly unlikely that relying on the grounds of adultery will have any bearing whatsoever on your financial settlement.


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