Grounds for Divorce – Adultery (What you need to know)

Person removing ring
Originally published on 28th September 2018 at 11:20 AM

Important update: in April 2019, the government confirmed that England & Wales will (at some point) change the current laws and introduce no-fault divorce. The information in this blog is still valid until the laws change, however when this will be has not yet been confirmed. For updates on no-fault divorce, please enter your email address below and we'll alert you about any important changes.

In English and Welsh law adultery can be used as a ‘fact’ for the Grounds for Divorce if you want to prove that your marriage has broken down. There are five facts or reasons to ‘rely’ on to prove your marriage has broken down past the point of recovery. The five facts are:

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

This blog will cover what you need to know about using adultery for the reason to divorce.

The Essentials

  • You must be married for at least a year to get divorced
  • You must start divorce proceedings within six months of finding out that the adultery has taken place
  • Adultery means sex with a member of the opposite sex. Other forms of intimacy outside of sexual intercourse cannot be used in English and Welsh law
  • The person who was not unfaithful must be the ‘petitioner’ i.e. the person who starts divorce proceedings

How to ‘Prove it’

The easiest way to divorce using adultery is for the person who has committed the adultery to admit to it.  It can be hard to gather evidence and prove adultery if your ex isn’t prepared to admit it.You can attempt to prove adultery through text messages, hotel room bookings, witnesses etc. However, this route is not advised as it’s likely to lead to further tension between you. If the person who has committed the adultery doesn’t accept that they have been unfaithful, then the other option is to use unreasonable behaviour grounds.

Who Divorces Who?

You can’t start the divorce proceedings if you are the person who has committed the adultery, it will fall to the other person. This may not seem fair as it leaves your ex to start the process. If your marriage has broken down, and your ex won’t start proceeding then use Unreasonable Behaviour.

Should I Name The Other Person?

There is the option to name the person your ex has had an affair with on the divorce petition. Whilst it’s tempting to do that when things are raw, it doesn;t achieve much and gives an additional opportunity for your ex or the person named to object and hold things up. A counsellor can help you process the raw emotional feelings that accompany a betrayal.

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About the author

Hannah Hodgkinson is Head of Marketing at amicable. Hannah has over six years experience working for global NGOs and private consultancies and has a passion for marketing for companies with a social purpose


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