On 6th April 2022, ‘no-fault’ divorce replaced the previous grounds for obtaining a divorce, of which adultery was one. No-fault divorces will help couples wishing to apply for a divorce who don’t want to apportion blame. But this has arguably left behind those who have suffered emotional pain and betrayal at the hands of a cheating spouse, who may have felt validated when the reason for the breakdown of the relationship was there in black and white.
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Those who have suffered infidelity by cheating spouses may feel forgotten because they can no longer articulate the demise of their relationship in terms of blame during the divorce process. It is therefore unclear where the feelings of loss, anger and grief will manifest themselves. Under divorce law, couples can no longer make allegations about the conduct of their spouse, they must merely state their marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. This can be done either individually or jointly and will be sufficient to be considered ‘conclusive evidence’ of such breakdown.
The divorce process includes a statutory 20-week period for ‘meaningful’ reflection, followed by a further six week period between the conditional order and final order. Many spouses who have a cheating partner will not feel that this reflection period is necessary, but nonetheless, it is a mandatory step in the process. This results in a total of at least 6 months from beginning end, though this time can be increased if there are lengthy negotiations regarding finances and children.
Perhaps one benefit to a spouse who has been cheated on is that their partner cannot contest or object to the divorce except on very limited grounds (e.g. that the marriage is not valid, or that the divorce should take place in a different country). So whilst the divorce process is at least 6 months long, neither party can exert any control over the other by saying that they will ‘not give’ their spouse a divorce and attempt to delay the process – which would have been easier for them to do under previous English law.
Finally, with all that considered, it’s worth remembering that if a couple divorce due to adultery in the relationship, this will not affect your financial settlement or your rights surrounding your children, because the law surrounding these issues remains unchanged. If a partner has been adulterous, it has always been the case that this has no effect on how the finances are divided or how time with the children is apportioned.
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