What is Adultery? And How Can I Divorce for Adultery?

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

What is Adultery? And How Can I Divorce for Adultery?

Divorce for adultery is one of five facts (or reasons) used to get a divorce in England and Wales. An adulterous act must have taken place to use adultery for divorce. You must also find it intolerable to remain in the marriage with your spouse. In legal terms, the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’.

Even though adultery is defined precisely by law, it is often mistakenly thought to have a wider application than it has.

What is the definition of divorce by adultery?

In legal terms, adultery refers explicitly to a married man or woman having sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex. This means that many behaviours often thought of as adultery are not in the eyes of the law.

Legally, adultery covers only sexual intercourse, which means behaviours such as kissing, masturbation, fellatio, sexting, and virtual sex do not count to get divorced.

Adultery can only be used if actual sexual intercourse has taken place between your spouse and a person of the opposite sex.

Under current law, if you are in a civil partnership, you cannot rely on adultery, even if your partner committed adultery with a member of the opposite sex.

How can I divorce for adultery?

For you to divorce for adultery, the following criteria must be met:

  • You file for divorce within six months of finding out about the adultery.
  • It must detail the adultery of your partner and not on your actions.
  • Your spouse has had sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex.

A divorce petition based on adultery requires that your spouse signs the acknowledgement of service and consents (agrees) that Adultery took place.

Without consent, you will need to provide evidence, and adultery defined as sexual intercourse having taken place is difficult to prove if your spouse will not admit it.

If you have any doubt that your spouse will not admit to adultery, then consider other grounds; such as unreasonable behaviour or two years of separation.

In most cases, when a Respondent defends a petition, it is not an attempt to save the marriage. Usually, it’s because they disagree about who is to blame, which is triggered by the allegations about their behaviour.

Top Tip

If you want a quick and low-cost divorce, it is best to agree on what you will write as evidence with your spouse. This reduces the chance of disagreement and your spouse defending the claim.

Do I have to use legal jargon when using adultery as grounds for my adultery?

There are a couple of rules that you need to follow, but they are not complicated.

The person who starts the divorce is known as the Petitioner, and your spouse becomes the Respondent. You need to use these names to describe you and your spouse when you give your details of the adultery.

Remember, adultery is very hard to prove unless your spouse admits to the adultery. For this reason, you do not need to go into great detail about the Adultery.

Simply write:

  • The date(s) and place where the adultery took place
  • The date you found out and how you found out
  • The date of separation

For example:

On (date) the Respondent committed adultery at (give address or location) with a man/woman whose identity is unknown to the Petitioner.

Within the divorce petition, there is a section where you can name the person with whom your spouse committed adultery. The other person in these cases is called the co-respondent.

Top Tip

It may seem tempting to ‘name and shame’ the other person – known as the co-respondent. However, it is best to remain silent to ensure a swift divorce and to keep costs to a minimum.

If you name a co-respondent, it can cause difficulties if the co-respondent does not admit to the adultery or acknowledge service.

If you decide to name a co-respondent:

Since (date) the Respondent has frequently committed adultery at (give address or location) with the co-respondent.


How Easy Online Divorce can help you.

Easy Online Divorce can prepare your divorce for adultery petition, and handle the entire divorce process, including liaising with your former spouse, so you don’t have to. By using our service, you will save thousands on expensive high street solicitors.


Frequently Asked Questions

Does adultery affect a divorce settlement?

It is a common misconception to think that there is a link between a financial settlement and behaviour such as adultery. This is not the case.

The courts will only take the behaviour of the parties into account if it is relevant to the case. For example, in the case of finances, fraud, or the co-respondent is unsuitable to be around children.

What judges do consider is marriage length, children and earning potential and others, to decide if a divorce settlement they are present with is fair.

Will my adultery allegations be made public?

The details of your divorce are only visible to the Petitioner and the Respondent, any legal representatives either party has and the court staff. Details of adultery that you provide are not available to the public.

Are there any time limits when divorcing for adultery?

Some married couples try and carry with their marriage following adultery. Some can work through their issues, but many, understandably to choose to divorce for adultery.

However, care is needed. Continue to live with your spouse for more than six months after you found out about the adultery, and you will not be able to divorce for adultery.

If you continue to live together for more than six months, the Court sees this as acceptance of your spouse’s actions. Now you must seek another ground for divorce, such as unreasonable behaviour or two years separation with consent.

My spouse won’t admit adultery, what options do I have?

Adultery is an accusation which often spurs strong emotional responses. This increases the risk that your spouse will want to defend their reputation.

If your spouse does not admit to the allegations, you can proceed with your divorce using unreasonable behaviour. Allegations of unreasonable behaviour do not require proof of a physical act, unlike adultery.

Divorce for unreasonable behaviour requires that you give the Court four to five examples of your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour. One of which could be your spouse having an inappropriate relationship with another person.

For more information on how to divorce for unreasonable behaviour, see our article here.


As you have probably gathered from this article, proving adultery is very difficult. This is why many couples decide to use unreasonable behaviour as the ground for their divorce.

Easy Online Divorce can advise you on whether to proceed with an adultery petition divorce or any other ground for that matter.

We will advise you of all your options in clear, simple English and let you decide which route you want to take.

Fully managed adultery divorce service for £169.

We are the UK’s premier affordable divorce solution. We understand how difficult it is to decide on divorce. So, when separation is inevitable, we want to help you by making the process easy.

Our specialists will help you end your marriage as quickly and painlessly as possible. We can handle every aspect of the process on your behalf, including liaising with your former spouse if you would prefer not to.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get help and advice every week

More To Explore

Got a Question about this article or divorce in general?

drop us a line we are happy to help

Have a Question?

Just write down some details and we’ll get back to you.