What Constitutes Adultery in the UK

What Constitutes Adultery in the UK

If you have made an opinion that your spouse or the partner has become unfaithful to you, and you should move for the divorce. Remember, that’s not an easy task rather an uphill task in the United Kingdom.

In order to get yourself away from the relationship; it will be incumbent upon you to first prove that the adultery was committed.

However, you must consult an expert divorce solicitor if you need to inquire about the financial aspect of your divorce or also the custody of your children.

What is Adultery?

In the UK, adultery has been charged in the cases “where a married man is found having sex with any woman except his wife and likewise if the married woman has been found carrying sex with a man other than his husband/ spouse.”

Consider, adultery and infidelity are two different terms in the English Law with different connotations; therefore one should not be confused to treat them same.

Adultery refers to the sexual intercourse between a man and woman not married to each other rather they have been married to some other spouses.

Infidelity is a physical or emotional act, may involve intercourse or not, showing disloyalty and unfaithfulness to the respective partners.

This act includes but not limited to kissing, dating or doing any other act prejudicial to the inter se rights of the partners.

Related Article: Can you sue for adultery in the UK

Significance of Adultery Law in UK

Adultery laws in the UK play a crucial role in the realm of divorce law, significantly effecting divorce proceedings and financial settlements between the spouses.

The Matrimonial Causes Act provides adultery as one of the grounds for divorce and not more than this. This legal framework acknowledges the breach of marital fidelity as a substantial factor leading to the breakdown of a marriage without imposing any punishment.

Adultery serves as a tangible marker indicating irretrievable breakdown, allowing individuals to seek legal dissolution of their marriages. Moreover, adultery's inclusion in divorce law reflects societal values surrounding fidelity and commitment within marital relationships.

It establishes a legal recourse for individuals whose marriages have been affected by infidelity, ensuring they have the opportunity to seek redress through the legal system.

Essentials for adultery in UK Laws

In the context of UK laws, adultery entails the involvement of sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than their spouse. To establish adultery as grounds for divorce, concrete evidence or admission is required.

This essential ingredient in divorce proceedings necessitates a rigorous standard of proof, often requiring substantial evidence and legal support. Additionally, adultery's definition underscores the importance of fidelity within marriage, recognizing its violation as a significant breach of trust.

However, proving adultery can be challenging due to the need for irrefutable evidence, potentially leading to prolonged and costly divorce proceedings.

Despite these challenges, adultery remains a valid ground for seeking divorce under UK laws, reflecting the legal system's acknowledgment of its impact on marital relationships.

Latest Case law: Smith V. Smith

In a recent case, Smith v. Smith, adultery was contested, significantly influencing the divorce settlement. The court deliberated on evidence presented regarding infidelity, weighing its impact on financial arrangements and custody decisions.

This case exemplifies how adultery continues to be a contentious issue within divorce proceedings, affecting various aspects of family law and matrimonial disputes.

The court's consideration of evidence related to adultery underscores its relevance in determining the outcomes of divorce settlements, demonstrating its enduring significance within the UK legal system.

Smith v. Smith highlights the complexities surrounding adultery allegations in divorce cases and the profound effects they can have on the involved parties' lives, underscoring the importance of legal representation and thorough evidentiary support in such matters.

Is adultery a crime in the UK?

Although, the act of adultery has not been defined as an offence in the law, yet it is treated a highly unethical and immoral act violating the precious rights of the partners.

Therefore, it has been kept a valid ground for getting a divorce. It seems an easy task to prove the act of adultery but when it comes to establish the act of adultery things become difficult to prove for the inter alia reasons: -

Firstly, if you have put adultery as a ground while seeking divorce then you will need to state detailed facts that your partner had a sex with some other person of opposite sex; as having sex with the same gender has not been defined as adultery in the UK law.

Secondly, if you raise a claim that your partner is involved in some homosexual relationship or have same sex extramarital affair then your claim is likely to fail as these acts are not covered in the adultery.

It is pertinent to mention here that specific allegations are needed to prima facie hold a right to seek a divorce while use of online apps or sites for the purposes of dating would not help in forming the crime of adultery.

The level of intimacy during dating communication would not afford any right of seeking divorce on the basis of such inchoate claim until sexual relation with opposite sex is not apparent.

Adultery Laws UK

In the law; there are many grounds which may be raised to get a divorce from the court of law. However it is essential to prove and substantiate that the marriage has been broken down.

Meanwhile, besides adultery; any of the following grounds can be taken: -

Unreasonable Behaviour

You must plead, and substantiate that you conduct and behaviour of your partner is miserable and it has become difficult for you to live with the partner for any further time.


If your partner has deserted you and parted ways and a period of 2 years has passed in such state of desertion then you also qualify to seek divorce.

Two years of separation with consent

It has been mutually agreed to get separated and such period of separation exceeding 2 years now.

Five years of separation

With no obvious understanding but it has been five years that partners have lived apart for such longer period, which also furnishes a ground for divorce.

How does adultery affect divorce?

In order to seek a divorce from the court of law it is sine qua non to state and prove that a least a period of 6 months has passed and the partners have not lived together.

If it is contra wise proved, the divorce cannot be allowed to the partners living together. Likewise, it is also needed on your part to assert that a period of 6 months has passed since the partner has become disloyal and unfaithful.

It has been observed that great caution is exercised by the people while alleging adultery against the partner. Even if the ground of adultery exist in the claim but the one seeking divorce raises claim on the basis of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ to keep the personal character out of display.

Although the legal proceedings for the divorce are efficient, nicely and ended in the short span of time. Also, numerous grounds have been kept to facilitate the partners to have safe and quick exit from the relationship yet it affects the life of the partners and children at large scale.

Expert Divorce lawyers in the UK

The compassionate divorce lawyers of Deo Volente (DV) Solicitors in Bedford, UK, can guide you through this difficult and painful process so you can act accordingly. 

We will help you hurdle this obstacle without going through costly court battles and tense situations.


It has been inferred that there are multiple grounds to get a divorce from the partner, which also include raising allegation of adultery by the partner. However, what adultery means, and include and what it doesn’t is a discourse of insight.

What actions fall with the adultery and others in infidelity and whether the act of infidelity can also be taken as ground for divorce or not has been discussed in detail?

Kinds of other acts and grounds have also been explained in much detail to give the reader an exact idea whether the plea he is raising does qualify for the divorce or not.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is classed as adultery in the UK?

It is when a married person with his free will, is found to have sexual intercourse with some of opposite gender except the husband or wife.

Is cheating on your wife illegal in the UK?

The phrase refers to the adultery, deceiving partner and having sexual intercourse with someone else of opposite sex. Although it is immoral but not a crime thus not illegal. However, it is one of the valid ground for pleading case for divorce.

What is the punishment for adultery in England?

Currently, the commission of adultery is not a crime thus not publishable from the court of law, however it can be taken as ground for divorce considering an act of immorality.

What is the Homewrecker law in the UK?

As per law of ‘homewrecker’ it is allowed to a spouse to sue any other person if he or she is involved in wooing his/ her partner away. The right has been created to alive the sanctity of marriage.

Beatrice Natalie

Blog Writer on Environmental issues

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