Can I divorce my husband/wife if they are cheating? Is this a common reason for divorce?

Prior to the law in England and Wales moving to a no-fault divorce system, infidelity was one of the more common reasons given for getting divorced. It is no longer possible to apply for divorce using adultery as grounds because it is no longer necessary to apportion blame, hence the term “no fault”. There is only one ground for divorce, and this is the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”. Here we discuss what infidelity means for divorce, the issues to consider, and even that it may matter where you live!

Can adultery affect the outcome of a financial settlement?

Most applicants believe they are entitled to a greater share of the family’s finances as a result of their partner’s infidelity; however, this is a common misconception. Factors such as the length of the marriage, children, and earning potential are among a host of circumstances which ultimately determine what a divorce settlement looks like, not the parties behaviour.

What is the view of cheating by the court?

The court will not treat a divorce arising because of an affair by one spouse any differently to any other reason for the breakdown of a relationship. Any assets you and your partner obtained during the marriage are added to the pot, and you must then agree how this should be divided between you. If you cannot reach an agreement, then the matter will probably proceed to court, where a judge will make a decision based on the checklist contained in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The main principle the court follows is that any settlement must be fair and reasonable for both parties, taking into account any children.

What if there was an infidelity clause in our prenuptial agreement?

Although such clauses are common in the US, adultery in the UK does not factor into how  finances are divided. And whilst prenuptial agreements tend to be legally binding, it is always open to a judge to question its contents and validity. Although an infidelity clause may appear to be a great way to penalise a cheating spouse, a judge may not be so keen to uphold it.

Is cheating a common reason to divorce?

When it comes to infidelity, some people engage in physical affairs, while others may have emotional affairs or develop online relationships. Regardless of the type of infidelity, it is therefore unsurprising that adultery is a common reason for couples to divorce. Whether it was a one night stand or a full on affair, some people just cannot get past it.

And the most adulterous place in the UK? Brighton!

Recently, the UK’s most adulterous place in the UK was revealed in the Infidelity Index. According to the index, which was compiled by a website that specialises in extramarital affairs, the city of Brighton and Hove had the highest rate of infidelity. The areas of Lewes and Newhaven saw cases of adultery rise of 6% and 10% respectively. However, it is not all bad news, Hastings and Eastbourne experienced a 40% and 24% fall in the numbers of people having affairs compared with the previous year.

The cost of living has been blamed for boosting the number of affairs, with fewer couples being able to afford to get divorced. The reality is that it is far cheaper to remain in an unhappy relationship and have a discreet affair; fundamentally because of the spiralling costs of separation and maintaining two homes. In addition, another factor has been life returning to normal following the pandemic, with those having affairs making up for two years of lost time because of restrictions.

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