Adultery in Uk

Adultery in Uk: adultery laws, Is it legal?Is adultery a Crime?, divorce, military, How to prove adultery? 

A married man or woman is considered adulterous if they are having sex with someone other than their spouse; or in the case of a married woman, in the case of another person than the husband, they are experiencing sex.

Adultery in Uk: adultery laws, Is it legal?Is adultery a Crime?, divorce, military, How to prove adultery?
Adultery in Uk: adultery laws, Is it legal?Is adultery a Crime?, divorce, military, How to prove adultery?

Despite some people conflating the two, adultery and infidelity are two separate things according to English law. In adultery, a man and woman have sexual relations while they are married to the same person.

A different meaning of infidelity exists. In this case, sexual intercourse is not always involved but includes emotional and physical acts that are unfaithful or disloyal to your partner. The list includes kissing, dating, and any behavior that is not appropriate in a committed relationship or marriage.

Adultery is an emotionally charged topic. Many marriages have ended as a result of it, and there has been a great deal of heartache.

Despite what many people believe, UK law is quite specific when it comes to adultery. Adultery cannot be used to legally end a relationship for everyone who finds out about it.

To help you understand how adultery is defined in the United Kingdom, we’ve put together this guide.

Adultery laws

Divorce can be complicated by the requirement that you prove the breakdown of your marriage before you can get it. Divorce can be granted on the following grounds:

  • Unreasonable behavior
  • Desertion
  • Two years of separation with consent
  • Five years of separation with consent

Adultery does not involve using online dating apps or sites, as is widely believed. When communicating with other people through these apps, intimacy may be present, but that alone does not justify divorce. Sexual relations must exist with a person of the opposite sex, as explained earlier.

Is it legal? Adultery in Uk

Adultery is not a criminal offense in the United Kingdom.

Divorce is still possible, however.

From the later twelfth century until the seventeenth century, adultery was not a criminal offense under English law. In England and Wales, adultery was punishable under ecclesiastical law from the twelfth century until 1857, when the Matrimonial Causes Act abolished the ecclesiastical court’s jurisdiction over adultery (and some other British Overseas Territories). 

The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 became law in England and Wales when it became possible for a spouse to sue an adulteress for damages based on loss of consortium from the early seventeenth century. During the decade in which the Commonwealth (Adultery) Act (1650) was in effect, adultery was also illegal under secular law  

Divorces based on adultery are actually much less common than you might expect because of the narrow definition.

Adultery can only be used as a basis for divorce if the divorce proceedings start within six months of the discovery of the adultery. Therefore, the spouse filing for divorce has only a very short amount of time to reconsider giving their spouse another chance.

Infidelity must be discovered within six months of a married couple living together after a spouse discovers their partner’s infidelity. When they do, they forfeit their right to cite adultery as a reason for separation.

Due to changes in the law over recent decades, particularly when it comes to same-sex relationships, the legal definition of adultery has become increasingly outdated. This has led many to call for the law to be changed to reflect the fact that same-sex relationships do not constitute adultery.

Earlier this year, it was announced that new laws would allow “no-fault” divorces, the first change in the law in half a century. Attorney General David Gauke announced he would propose legislation to end “unnecessary antagonism”.

Is adultery a Crime? 

In the United Kingdom, adultery has not been a crime since the Matrimonial Causes Act was introduced in 1857. That is not to say it is acceptable, however.

In the past, adultery was one of the five grounds for divorce. Now, it is not a ground for divorce. 

Even though it isn’t a crime, getting a divorce is one of the reasons for it. In spite of the fact that it sounds simple, adultery is difficult to prove for the following reasons.

In the first place, adultery can be cited as a ground for divorce only if your partner has had sexual relations with a person of the opposite sex. Under UK law, if your partner has a relationship with someone of the same sex, that’s not considered adultery. Therefore, you cannot use this as a reason for getting divorced.

Likewise, adultery is not present if your partner is homosexual or has an extramarital affair with the same sex as you are.


Traditionally, adultery has been one of five grounds for divorce in the United Kingdom, all resulting from “irretrievable breakdown” of marriages. Those grounds included:

  • Living apart for at least two years (with consent to divorce);
  • Separating for more than five years (without consent to divorce);
  • Abandonment;
  • Irrational behavior; and
  • Prostitution.

Since the implementation of no-fault divorce, you are no longer required to give reasons for your divorce. Of course, you can still want a divorce if you are caught in adultery. The only difference is now you don’t need to prove it.

It is never easy to go through a divorce, but when one of the party’s committed adultery, it can be even more difficult.

The biggest myth about divorce is that petitioners are entitled to more money due to their ex-spouse’s adultery. This is the most common misconception regarding divorce.

According to UK divorce law, adultery is defined as your spouse having sexual relations with someone of the opposite sex and the other spouse being unable to live with them.

Adultery is believed to be a black and white issue; something that is clear and obvious. It is simply the act of an unfaithful partner.

The law in the UK is a bit more complicated when it comes to Adultery as a means to prove your marriage has broken down.

Due to the new divorce law in England and Wales, it is no longer possible to apply for a divorce on the grounds of adultery.

With the passage of the no-fault divorce law, there are only two grounds for divorce – irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and grounds for annulment.


Adultery is a punishable criminal offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Service members who engage in sexual relations with someone other than their spouse is considered to be engaged in adultery.

Regulations of the British army address adultery as one of its subjects.

In the regulations, it is stated that “it is essential” that military personnel do not worry about the integrity of their marriages, particularly when deployed away from home bases.

Extramarital relationships “will be considered unacceptable” so that family morale can be maintained. An officer involved in an adulterous affair, whether married or single, risks losing his or her standing as an officer if the affair is made public and if it brings the Army or the officer into disrepute.

A Defense Ministry spokesman says that each case reported to authorities is treated separately, and counseling may be offered to preserve a marriage. In case of an adulterous affair aboard a ship, one of the partners is likely to be transferred.

How to prove adultery?

If you believe your spouse has been unfaithful and you want to use adultery as grounds for divorce, you must prove it to the court. You can do this by having your partner confess their infidelity. Provide evidence if necessary. Photo, video, and text messages are common ways to verify what happened.

Nevertheless, if they won’t admit it, you may find it difficult to prove that adultery has occurred. Your marriage may not be considered irretrievably broken if the court finds no irretrievable breakdown.

If you can’t prove adultery and your spouse is unwilling to admit it, you may find that using one of the other grounds for divorce is easier and less acrimonious. Your partner may have behaved in such a manner that you cannot live with them, thus justifying divorce by stating that he or she has been unreasonable. This may be the case if you have an extramarital relationship.

The act of naming the person who deceived your partner is not common. Because of this, it is rarely used as a way to prove adultery. To keep the divorce process as amiable as possible, it is usually avoided to name the other party – called the co-respondent in this case. In all but exceptional circumstances, UK courts have stipulated that those co-respondents shouldn’t be identified.

Read also: Adultery in France; Adultery in the United States; Can you go to jail for adultery?

External resource: Wikipedia

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