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Home » Advice Centre » How Does Adultery Affect Divorce in the UK

How Does Adultery Affect Divorce in the UK

Posted on: 3 July 2023 by Goodwins Family Law Solicitors

What is the legal definition of adultery?

Adultery is defined in the UK as voluntary sexual intercourse between a man and a woman where one or both parties are married to someone else.

Is adultery grounds for divorce in the UK?

Under old divorce laws, adultery was a reason for a divorce alongside desertion, unreasonable behaviour and separation. However, since ‘no-fault’ divorces were introduced, there is no need to explain the reasons behind the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of a marriage. This means that adultery is no longer a reason for divorce in the UK, but it can still be cited as an example of unreasonable behaviour.

How does adultery affect divorce in the UK?

You can no longer use adultery as a reason for the breakdown of the marriage, and so it  has very little impact on a divorce case, in legal terms at least.

It is a common myth that the spouse who commits adultery is the party that must pay for the divorce. The reality is that the individual who applied for divorce is the one who is responsible for paying the divorce fees. Both parties would then have to pay for their own solicitors’ fees on top. This means that even if someone commits adultery or is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage, they will not have to be solely financially responsible for the divorce.

But while the law may not recognise adultery as a reason for divorce, it can still have an emotional impact on the parties involved. Adultery typically creates feelings of betrayal, anger and hurt that can exacerbate the bad blood between the parties. If mishandled, these feelings can lead to poor communication and decision making that may result in you getting protracted divorce proceedings or an unfavourable outcome.

To make sure you reach a favourable outcome, it’s important you seek support and advice for negative emotions. At Goodwins, our lawyers are known for their compassion as well as their professionalism and will provide the support you need to get through this difficult period.

Does adultery affect the outcome of a divorce settlement in the UK?

Many people believe that adultery will have a significant impact on the outcome of a divorce settlement in the UK, but this is not necessarily the case. In fact, normally the grounds for divorce are considered to be irrelevant when it comes to divorce financial settlement negotiations, as all financial settlements must be made in line with the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

Under English law, the grounds for divorce or behaviour of a spouse are rarely, if ever, taken into consideration by divorce courts when deciding who gets what in a financial settlement. When dividing finances, other matters are taken into account, including the length of the marriage, whether there are any children, the needs of each spouse, each spouse’s income and each spouse’s savings. However, if significant sums of money have been spent on adultery, it may become relevant.


Get in touch with Goodwins Family Law if you need advice, support and representation for your divorce. Goodwins is a London-based firm with over 30 years’ experience and an excellent client satisfaction rate. Our divorce solicitors have extensive experience in handling no-fault divorce cases and can provide you with the legal expertise you need to reach a fair and favourable outcome. 

Book a consultation now.

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Goodwins Family Law Solicitors is a registered company in England. © Goodwins Family Law Solicitors 2024. All Rights Reserved.

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