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Family law

What exactly is adultery?

In the eyes of the law, adultery is the act of having sexual relations with someone other than your spouse while you are still married.

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What exactly is adultery?

In the eyes of the law, adultery takes place when a married person has sexual relations with someone of the opposite sex, other than their legal spouse. While adultery isn't illegal in this country – it is still an acceptable reason for you to be granted a divorce.

Is it still adultery if we are separated?

Yes, it is. The legal definition of adultery as 'having sexual relations with someone other than your spouse' applies even if you are living apart. This needn't necessarily be a big issue if you have separated amicably and plan to divorce for the reason of having been separated for two years with the agreement of both parties, or separated for five years if only one party wishes to divorce.

Where adultery can become an issue is where one party doesn't wish to wait for a divorce on the basis of separation and seeks a more immediate divorce for the reason of adultery.

It's important to understand this, as many separated couples will meet new partners and even move in with new partners soon after an otherwise amicable split, fully expecting their divorce to eventually be granted on the basis of separation; yet may find that things happen sooner if their spouse takes exception to a new relationship that is deemed as adulterous in the eyes of the law.

What if my spouse consented to my adultery?

It doesn't matter if you have agreed with your spouse to have a relationship with someone else - it is still adultery and your husband or wife can use that fact as the basis of a divorce petition any time they like.

The only time adultery with another person other than your spouse isn't regarded as adultery is if you are in a same-sex marriage. That's because currently the law says that adultery can only take place between two people of the opposite sex.

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