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What is Adultery?

By Senior Associate, Family Law

Adultery is one of the top reasons for divorce. We have seen a rise in the number of clients coming to us citing their partner cheating on them whilst on holiday.

divorce lawyers

To find out just how common adultery on holiday is and why people cheat while they are away we have commissioned a study with over 2,000 married and divorced Brits. We are also examining the legalities around adultery and divorce.

Adultery is voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse.

Under English law, the definition of adultery means that it can only occur between members of the opposite sex.

If your spouse is cheating on you with a member of the same sex you cannot use adultery as a ground for divorce in your divorce petition. 

To obtain a divorce and prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably it is necessary to rely on one of five different facts:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Two years separation with consent
  • Desertion
  • Five years separation

The only ground for divorce in England and Wales is that a marriage has broken down irretrievably and this must be proved by one of the five facts.

What Can You Do if Your Spouse is Having a Same-Sex Affair?

If a husband is having affairs with men rather than women the wife could divorce her husband on the basis of his unreasonable behaviour and cite his inappropriate relationships with others during the course of their marriage.

There are calls for a change in the law to address this discrimination whereby same-sex relationships do not constitute adultery.

Gay couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships for approximately 10 years. But it’s not possible to dissolve a civil partnership on the basis that one of the civil partners has committed adultery.

If you’re in a same-sex marriage you are only able to issue an adultery petition on the basis of adultery if your partner commits adultery with a member of the opposite sex.

There is a hope amongst many family lawyers that divorce law will move towards a ‘no fault’ system. It is believed that a more peaceful and less antagonistic approach to divorce is in the best interests of separating spouses, particularly where there are children involved.

In most cases, the basis on which a divorce has been issued will not have a bearing as to how a financial settlement will be determined.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers provide the public with a free initial consultation on family law issues. For specialist legal advice in relation to divorce, dissolution or the financial aspect of separation please contact one of our specialist family lawyers by calling us on freephone 0800 916 9055 or alternatively contact us online.