We will all have seen the news that hit the headlines this weekend. Matt Hancock resigned from his position as Health Secretary following the leak of CCTV footage, which showed him kissing his government aide. It has since transpired that Mr Hancock has left his wife of 15 years.
The news of Matt Hancock’s kiss has led to many people contemplating and debating whether Mr Hancock’s kiss amounts to “adultery” and if it does – how this might affect any potential divorce settlement.
There are many misconceptions surrounding a divorce based on adultery. We have listed some of the key misconceptions below:
1. Adultery covers all types of behaviour
Under the current law, adultery only covers sexual intercourse between a married person and a person of the opposite sex, which means sending inappropriate text messages or emails, touching or kissing do not count for the purposes of getting a divorce. Mr Hancock has not been caught “in the act” and as such Mrs Hancock would have to prove adultery unless Mr Hancock admitted to it.
2. It is not adultery if you have already separated
If you engage in a sexual relationship with someone while you are still legally married, it is technically adultery even if you and your former partner do not live together anymore.
3. You can petition for divorce on the basis of adultery at any time
In some instances couples try and reconcile after the discovery of an affair. If you are in this situation, you should be careful not to time bar yourself from obtaining a divorce on the grounds of adultery. The law states that if you continue to live with your spouse for a period of more than 6 months after you find out about the adultery, you will not be able to rely on an adultery based divorce.
4. You have to name the person your spouse committed adultery with as a Co-Respondent
Whilst there is a section on the divorce petition where you can name the person your spouse committed adultery with, there is no obligation to name them. Where one party feels betrayed it is often tempting to name the other person but you should be aware that this could result in additional costs and delays.
5. You will get more money than your spouse because they were the one who committed adultery
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding divorce is that people believe that they will be entitled to more financially because the other party committed adultery and they should be compensated in some way. The reality is that unless the conduct of one person is so bad that it would be “inequitable to disregard” it will rarely impact the outcome of financial settlements.
In April 2022 a new law will come into force which will mean that couples can divorce without needing to place the blame on one another. It will be interesting to see how many couples proceed on this basis and how many prefer to cite adultery out of principle.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this blog please seek specialist family advice and contact Anna Patsalides, Solicitor or Olive McCarthy MCIArb, Partner at Taylor Walton.