Does Adultery Affect A Divorce Settlement In The UK?
When any marriage breaks down there is a huge emotional fallout, however, a divorce that is filed on the basis of adultery can be particularly contentious. If, for whatever reason, you are wondering ‘does adultery affect a divorce settlement’, you are certainly not alone.
When new clients file an adultery petition, we are often asked whether or not this will have an impact on the outcome of the financial settlement. When representing clients who are the ‘injured’ party so to speak, it’s common for them to think they may be automatically guaranteed a more favourable settlement than their spouse. Although this is a common assumption, it is actually incorrect.
So, in response to the question, ‘does adultery affect a divorce settlement’, if adultery is the basis upon which the divorce is filed, this will not have a direct impact on the court’s decision making or prompt any favour towards the petitioner who has made the initial case.
However, the fact of a new established relationship may in certain cases have an effect on the finances.
The outcome of any financial settlement in a divorce is based upon the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and he subsequent case law interpreting it. This Act lists the factors the court needs to consider when deciding the terms of a financial settlement and how the couple’s assets should be divided in the absence of any agreement. “Conduct” is one of those factors but it must be such that it would be inequitable for the court to disregard it. Adultery does not fall into this category. Where adultery may be relevant is if the relationship has progressed to one of permanence and the “needs” of that party to the divorce are in part met by living with the third party.
However it is fair to say that when deciding on how the marital assets should be divided, the reasons for divorce are not relevant in nearly all cases.
Of course, when we are discussing the question, ‘does adultery affect a divorce settlement’, we’re not just referring to financial assets. The breakdown of a marriage due to adultery can be particularly emotionally difficult and especially when there are children involved. It’s important to know that, as with determining the settlement of financial assets, the grounds for divorce will not have a biased impact upon how arrangements are made for the children. Setting personal differences aside, the court will always look to act in the best interests of the children.
Other factors to consider
It is important to note that filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery is not as straightforward as you might think. ‘Adultery’ is a powerful word but in the eyes of UK law, it is not so black and white. It is important to emphasise that ‘adultery’ is a legal term and differs from infidelity. You can only use adultery as the reason for divorce if:
- You do not continue to live with your spouse as husband and wife for more than six months of finding out the adultery has taken place
- Your husband or wife had sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex ( same-sex intercourse, even in same-sex marriages, is not currently considered grounds for adultery according to UK law)
On a practical basis unless you are guaranteed that your spouse will admit to the adultery directly to the court do not issue proceedings on this basis as without the admission proving the adultery to the judge is fraught with difficulty and open to failure.
If you have committed adultery yourself, you cannot file for divorce using this as the reason.
Before deciding upon the reason for which to put in for a divorce, it is always best to seek advice from an experienced divorce lawyer who will be able to advise on the best course of action for you and your family.
If you are considering seeking a divorce on the basis of adultery or have been accused of such by your spouse, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team of family solicitors who will offer a non-judgemental ear and help to make the process as painless as possible from start to finish.
Call us today on 01752 203500 and see how we can help.