The number of couples who cite adultery as a reason for divorce has dropped sharply since 2008, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
In that years 20,765 divorce petitions made that claim, but by 2018 the figure had fallen to just 9,205. The 2008 figure was itself a significant fall, from the no less than 36,310 who cited adultery in 1998.
Retired High Court Judge Sir Paul Coleridge, who established campaign group the Marriage Foundation in 2012, said the continuing drop suggested a social shift had taken place.
“I think people are more grown up than they used to be and realise that a single act of adultery does not tell you very much about the cause of the break-up of a marriage. It may be a symptom of the problem, but my experience is that it isn’t the cause. The cause is the broken relationship, and the adultery arises out of it.”
Under existing legislation, it is necessary to a cite one of five ‘facts’ or reasons when applying for divorce. These include adultery, along with unreasonable behaviour (which includes violence or abuse), desertion, two years’ separation with consent, and five years’ separation without consent. In most instances, citing adultery or other behaviour by your spouse in your divorce petition will not affect the settlement.
However, legislation currently proceeding through parliament will replace this requirement with a simple declaration that the marriage has broken down.
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