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South Korean Barred from Divorce on Adultery Grounds

A man has been refused divorce in South Korea because he committed adultery. 

Baek separated from his wife in 2000. He has been living with another woman for a number of years and now and even has a child together with his new partner. Yet he was refused a divorce as he had committed adultery.

Baek filed for divorce in 2011 and four years later, in September 2015, The Supreme Court Justices ruled against Baek’s request for a divorce on a seven to six majority.

South Korean law states that someone who is responsible for the breakdown of a marriage can be barred from filing for divorce. The Justices explained their concern in that permitting the divorce would leave Baek’s wife and their three children without financial support. South Korea has some way to go with respect to gender equality and women may be particularly vulnerable if unfaithful husbands were allowed to divorce them.

This is a world away from the divorce law we have in the UK. There is one ground to a divorce in the UK. That is the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. The person who files for the divorce (the Petitioner) has to rely on one of five facts.

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable Behaviour
  3. Two years separation with the Respondent’s consent
  4. Five years separation without the need for the Respondent’s consent
  5. Desertion

If a divorce is filed through UK Courts on the basis of adultery it is necessary for the Respondent to have undertaken sexual relations with someone else.

There are certain time limits applied if the married couple were to continue living together after the adultery has been discovered by the Petitioner. A person petitioning for divorce on the grounds of adultery must do so within six months of becoming aware of the adultery otherwise they are said to have ‘condoned’ it. This time limit is only applicable when spouses continue to live together after the adultery has been discovered.

With respect to any financial settlement, it doesn’t matter to the UK courts who committed the adultery. It is considered an irrelevant fact when they are deciding any matter relating either to the financial aspects or to the children.

If Mr Baek lived in the UK he would have been divorced back in 2011 when he first applied. It’s not surprising to read a report in the Chosun Ilbo last year which said that a number of couples from South Korea were heading to the state of Nevada in America to obtain a divorce.

Charlotte Brinsley is a Family and Divorce Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

If you require any advice in relation to matters of international divorce please contact the experts at Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9055 and we’ll be happy to assist with your queries. Alternatively you can contact us online and we will call you back.

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