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FAQ's - What to do if your husband or wife is having an affair

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My spouse is having an affair, what should I do?
You need advice about whether you should separate, or divorce. You need advice about how to protect yourself financially, and if your children should be introduced to your spouses boyfriend / girlfriend.

If you find out about the affair, and continue to live together for a period of 6 months or more in total, you cannot then divorce your spouse on the grounds of adultery.

Some people feel strongly that they do not want to divorce if a spouse is having an affair. Your spouse cannot start divorce proceedings on the grounds of his or her own adultery. You do need to be aware that your spouse may react to any separation differently than you, and that they are very likely to come to terms with the end of the marriage emotionally before you do. This means that if you delay in issuing divorce proceedings, this delay can sometimes cause a spouse who is having an affair frustration at a lack of progress, and inability to get on with a new life. If your spouse begins to feel this way, they may issue divorce proceedings on the grounds of your behaviour, which they find unreasonable as a way of moving things forward and bringing an end to your marriage.

You may feel you want to defend divorce proceedings issued on the grounds of your behaviour, if your spouse has had the affair, because you feel this unfair, or defend and proceed with the divorce on the basis of your spouse's adultery after all. Both of these courses of action cost more money in terms of legal fees than simply divorcing on the grounds of behaviour or adultery.

The most difficult thing for your spouse may have been admitting to the affair, and once this becomes common knowledge, your spouse may behave in a way which you may feel thoughtless and insensitive. This is often because the person committing adultery comes to terms emotionally with the end of the marriage before the person who is left behind. Whilst you catch up emotionally and deal with feelings of anger, hurt and betrayal the most important things are to make sure that you try and maintain some stability financially, and as much stability as you can for any children that you have. Even if you decide not to divorce immediately but separate, you need to make sure that you have enough money to pay the bills and any mortgage and that your spouse is contributing if he/she is able to do so, and that whatever your own feelings towards your spouse, your children maintain a degree of contact with him/her.

If need be, you can ask for maintenance through the Court without divorcing, and can apply to the CSA for child maintenance for any children you have. Issues relating to children can be dealt with by a Court without there being any divorce proceedings, so if you have a problem having contact with your children, this can be resolved even though you are not divorcing.