My article in last months Sheffield Telegraph about divorce and it’s implications for people in business has produced an interesting, if not surprising response. In it I talked about how a divorce settlement is arrived at and who may be entitled to what proportion of the business and family assets.
The feedback I have received has been that people want to know more about what factors will affect that settlement. One area in particular seems to be of great interest to people on both sides of any potential divorce and that is adultery.
In my 20 years as a matrimonial lawyer this is one of the subjects which comes up most frequently in my discussions with clients.
Firstly, a divorce can be obtained immediately if adultery can be proved, and this will usually require an admission from the party involved. It is not sufficient simply to know that your spouse is in another relationship or to suspect that adultery has taken place.
It is important to note that adultery can only be used as a reason for asking for a divorce by the ‘innocent’ party. If you have committed adultery and want to divorce your spouse, for instance to remarry, you cannot use your adultery as the reason. In these circumstances you would usually have to cite unreasonable behaviour, on your spouse’s part, as your reason for seeking a divorce. This can sometimes be difficult as it has to be more than the fact that you have drifted apart or simply do not get on any longer. There needs to be some particular behaviour by your spouse that you can point to as being unreasonable. This may be simple in extreme cases such as threats or violence but it can also include things like financial irresponsibility, or simply a lack of affection or consideration.
So does the admission of adultery affect the ultimate financial settlement? Broadly speaking it will not. The courts are not in the business of punishing people for committing adultery and will only consider bad behaviour or conduct in extreme cases. Far more important are the respective financial needs of both parties (and of any dependent children) and the capital and income resources which are available to meet those financial needs.
In some circumstances, the financial situation of a spouse’s new partner may be taken into account during the settlement. For example, if the person having committed adultery moves in with a new partner who has a large income and substantial assets, this may mean that the spouse in question has lesser financial needs and therefore requires less of a share of the matrimonial ‘pot’.
In practice, a divorce on the basis of adultery can often prove more favourable, in purely financial terms, for the ‘innocent’ party. The person who has committed adultery will often feel guilty or want to remarry quickly, and either of these scenarios can lead to them agreeing to a financial settlement which is more favourable to their spouse. A good solicitor will stop you from making this mistake.
Neil is head of the matrimonial team at Graysons solicitors in Sheffield and can be contacted on 0800 048 0766 or via www.graysons.co.uk.