Infidelity can profoundly impact marriages, causing emotional turmoil and trust issues and sometimes leading to divorce. In this article, we will explore how infidelity affects a marriage, its legal implications, and what steps you can take if you are considering to proceed with divorce based on your spouse’s act of adultery.
How is Infidelity Defined?
The layman definition of infidelity is different for each relationship. Though commonly associated with physical activities like sexual affairs, it can also be non-physical, like emotionally relying on someone outside the relationship. Ultimately, both mean that the straying partner is neglecting the relationship and is harming the marriage.
What Are the Types of Infidelity?
Several types of infidelity can be considered when proving unreasonable behaviour in an irretrievable breakdown of marriage. Under s95(3)(a) of the Women’s Charter, the legal definition of adultery is the physical act of sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. As such, in order to proceed with divorce based on your spouse’s act of adultery, you would need to have evidence to prove that your spouse had physical sexual intercourse with the third party.
Consequently, not all types of infidelity will amount to adultery, but may be relevant to prove unreasonable behaviour of the “cheating spouse”:
- Sexual Infidelity: this can occur regardless of whether sexual intercourse occurred or not. There are some exceptions to this e.g., in cases of rape, the court will not recognise this as proof of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
- Cyber Infidelity: this can occur in the cyberspace e.g., over the Internet or “sexting”, which may not lead to physical sexual intercourse.
- Emotional Infidelity: emotional attachments can be formed with anyone outside one’s marriage.
- Financial Infidelity: mismanagement of finances in a marriage is a common reason to want to divorce, but the extent of “financial infidelity” has to be examined.
Who Does Adultery Affect & How?
Effects on Children and Family
The emotional turmoil that accompanies the discovery of an affair can be significant. If you and your spouse decide to remain married, there are many emotional hurdles to overcome, like coming clean and validating the anger and pain.
Your relationship with your children may suffer if they learn about the affair. Your children may feel betrayed, lose respect in the parent who had an affair, and have trouble trusting both parents.
Effects on Both Partners
When another party is involved in the affair, the extent of the party’s spending is often fact-dependent, but can possibly add up to a large sum (which may or may not be noted by the faithful spouse). Additionally, most couples opt for marriage and children counselling, with separate individual and joint sessions. There are also legal fees involved with divorce consultations.
When dividing assets in a divorce, the Court considers these financial consequences.
Generally, monies acquired during a parties’ marriage will be included in the matrimonial pool for the division of matrimonial assets. A possible scenario may also arise if the unfaithful spouse has gifted large amounts of monies or expensive gifts to the third party, in which dissipation of assets may be raised. If ancillary matters are contested, parties will be granted sight of each other’s bank statements in the discovery and interrogatories process. The Court will then calculate the pool of matrimonial assets before deciding on a fair and equitable division of the assets.
At this juncture, it must be noted that the fact of divorce (i.e., Adultery, unreasonable behaviour, & more) is separate from the issue of Ancillary Matters (i.e., Division of Assets, Child issues, & more).
Infidelity affects both partners emotionally, with the aggrieved feeling a loss of trust and grief and the straying partner feeling guilt and shame. Counselling and open communication can help address these emotions and promote healing.
Read more: Grounds for Divorce in Singapore – Revised
FAQs on Adultery in the Divorce Process
How do I prove adultery for divorce purposes?
Under s95(3)(a) of the Women’s Charter, you have 2 elements to prove: (a) that adultery has taken place and (b) that it is intolerable to live with the other party.
If you have been married for more than 3 years, you go on to the next step of proof.
There are several ways to prove adultery:
- A spouse’s confession of adultery,
- Direct evidence of the commission of adultery,
- Indirect evidence that shows the inclination and opportunity to commit adultery (such as intimate text messages or emails), or
- The other spouse is not the natural father of the child.
Read more: 10 Points to Consider When Filing for Divorce Based on Adultery
What happens if I do not have concrete evidence?
You may want to seek professional help from a Private Investigator (PI) or consider commencing divorce proceedings due to unreasonable behaviour/ unreasonable behaviour due to improper association, instead of adultery.
By engaging a PI, be prepared for increased costs (which in some cases may even be higher than legal fees). Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the PI report will stand the test if the report does not obtain strong evidence. If you cannot afford or would rather not hire a PI, it would be more prudent to proceed with your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour.
Who can commence an action for divorce based on adultery?
An adulterer cannot commence an action for divorce based on their adultery. Only the aggrieved spouse may commence an action.
Is there a time limit on filing for divorce based on adultery?
If, after discovering the adultery, the aggrieved party continues to live with their spouse for more than 6 months, the plaintiff shall not be entitled to rely on that adultery for divorce.
What are the effects of adultery in the distribution of assets & child custody?
The discovery of adultery and its accompanying emotions are a ticking time bomb waiting to explode at the negotiation table. In these situations, the financial costs of conflict can be significantly higher.
Firstly, the Defendant may be ordered to pay for the legal costs of the divorce proceedings and the Private Investigation costs (if any).
Secondly, the Court considers child issues with the child’s welfare as the paramount consideration. If the parent has a promiscuous lifestyle and commits adultery with multiple partners, it could cast that parent in a poor light. Thus, it may affect which parent gets care and control of the child.
Thirdly, the Court will divide the assets under the principle of what is “just and equitable” and determine if maintenance is “reasonable”. The Court must meet the factors under the Women’s Charter upon deciding the division of assets and the award of maintenance.
Read more: Additional Questions on Adultery in Singapore
How Can GJC Law Help?
Regardless of whether it is a divorce on the grounds of adultery, it is important to seek professional advice from family lawyers.
We are committed to providing you with the legal help you need when you need it most, regardless of your situation.
You can trust that our divorce lawyers offer a high standard of representation and compassionate guidance from the start of your matter to the end of it.
In an uncontested divorce, where both parties agree to the divorce and its terms, GJC Law can help you to draft a divorce agreement that covers issues such as property division, child custody, and maintenance. If adultery is the reason for the divorce, GJC Law can help you to include this in the agreement and negotiate any relevant terms with the other party.
In a contested divorce, where the parties do not agree on the terms, GJC Law can help you prepare and file a writ for divorce with the Court. If adultery is the reason for the divorce, GJC Law can help you present the relevant evidence in Court. Evidence may involve obtaining witness statements, bank records, and other evidence that supports your case.
If you would like advice on a divorce application or any aspect of family law, do not hesitate to reach out to a member of our team.
GJC Law credits Sandra Ong & Arika Gin Ong for their research.