Adultery and Divorce Law and Culture

W.W. Washington, Guest Blogger, Adultery and Divorce Issues

Ever since biblical times, adultery has been grounds for divorce. Being unfaithful to one’s spouse was and is still considered to be the highest form of betrayal. In Old Testament times, the penalty for adultery under the laws of Moses was death for both individuals involved in the act. In the New Testament, things seem to have eased up a bit with an example being the woman who was brought to Jesus having been found in a compromising position. No mention is made of her partner, and that also points to a relaxing of the laws on unfaithfulness. Most traditions and customs from communities around the world had various ways of controlling and dealing with adultery. In the societies where it was considered illegal, it was almost always an incontestable reason for divorce.

Modern laws which largely borrow from religious and cultural practices with regards to family law have continued to recognize adultery and divorce as being closely linked. While appreciating that divorce in today’s society can result from a number of other reasons, adultery remains one of the most convincing grounds for filing a divorce. In the past, the laws of most countries considered adultery to be a crime which was dealt with in the same manner as other criminal offenses. Offenders who in most cases were women faced incarceration and other serious consequences. The men would often be dealt with in a much lighter manner if they were ever held to account at all. While there are some countries that continue to consider adultery a criminal act, most jurisdictions have moved away from such practices.

Adultery is now mainly an issue that has to do with family law and divorce proceedings. Most courts will expedite a divorce where one is able to convince the court that their spouse has been unfaithful. In most situations, proving that there was adultery taking place is the biggest challenge. The guilty party will do everything possible to avoid exposing themselves to the disadvantage of being an offending party in the divorce proceedings. It often becomes an ugly back and forth of accusations and counter accusations between spouses. It should also be noted that the threshold for evidence on infidelity varies from one place to another. Knowing the law as it applies in your locality is important when going through proceedings that may require evidence or testimony.

For those living in areas where the law has a very high threshold for evidence and testimony relating to adultery, consulting a divorce attorney will help you get a good idea of what is needed. The lawyer could advice that you hire a private investigator who will help collect the evidence needed. They may also recommend other options which are legal ways of collecting evidence that is admissible in court. Many people have had their cases thrown out of court for using illegal methods of evidence collection as well as bringing inadmissible evidence. Knowing what to look for and how to get it is extremely important when dealing with adultery and divorce cases.

It is also important to note that adultery can only be used as grounds for divorce by the innocent party. You cannot use your own infidelity as grounds for filing a divorce. This means that if your partner chooses to ignore your infidelity, you remain married until such a time that you can come up with some other valid grounds for filing for a divorce. There are also timeliness in most jurisdictions as to a period within which a spouse may use adultery to file for divorce after learning of the adulterous behavior. The timeline relates to the discovery of the infidelity and not the time it took place. Even if the adultery took place twenty years ago, you have a particular duration within which to use it as grounds for a divorce.

As far as the law is concerned, the only real advantage of having proof of adultery in divorce proceedings is the fact that you are highly likely to get a quickly dissolved marriage. If you are looking to move on with your life, this is very important. In regards to property and children, most courts will not give any advantage to the innocent party and even where they do, they will not provide a significant advantage. The laws dealing with divorce and adultery may vary from one country or state to the other but in most countries it remains a moral issue.


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