The assumption is that when a couple is married, or in a de facto relationship that they will remain faithful to each other for the entirety of the time they are together. When that is not the case, and one partner discovers that the other has cheated on them, then their next move tends to be to call their family lawyer at to start divorce proceedings.
Invariably they will tell their divorce lawyer that the reason for the divorce is infidelity, however, since 1975, getting divorced for that reason has not been a legal possibility. This is due to the fact that the Family Law Act of that year entered into Australian law the principle of no-fault divorce.
Prior to 1975, if you had wanted a divorce, you would have had to sit down with your divorce lawyer and basically build a case against your spouse to show that they were to blame for the marriage ending. Obviously, adultery, if proven or admitted by the other spouse, would indeed show that they were to blame, and the divorce would be granted on that basis.
Other reasons where you could apportion blame to your spouse included imprisonment, insanity, cruelty, drink problems, and desertion. With these, and indeed infidelity, it would often require the hiring of private investigators to gather evidence against the other spouse.
All of this was rooted in the legislation which existed prior to 1975, and the fact that a marriage was seen as a contract, rather than the emotional and loving commitment to another that it is more reasonably regarded today due to the change in modern society’s attitude to marriage.
With it previously being a contract, if the marriage was going to end, one party had to be seen as the person who broke that contract. With the attitudes that existed at the time, breaking the contract of marriage was seen as sinful, and thus the so-called sinner has punished by the fact that they were named as the guilty party with regards to adultery or any of the other reasons that they could be blamed for.
With the current principle of no-fault divorce and the removal of the need to allocate blame for the marriage ending, the reason for all divorces in Australia is now given as irretrievable breakdown. Assuming this can be established, and that there is no reason to believe that the couple will reconcile, the Family Court will grant the divorce.
For the avoidance of doubt, what we are not saying is that if your partner or spouse cheats on you and you wish to go your separate ways, that you cannot get divorced. If your partner is unfaithful, you have every right to separate and seek a divorce, but it is just that their infidelity will not be of any interest to the court, nor will it be allowed to be the legal reason why the divorce is granted.
It is also important to note that if the reason someone divorces their spouse is the fact that they have committed adultery, it will not make any difference to the subsequent property settlement nor any support that is payable, be that spousal support or child support.
Again, the family court will not be in the least bit inclined to award more to a spouse whose husband or wife has cheated on them. Its only consideration will be to see that a fair and equitable property settlement is agreed upon and that where applicable, spousal and child support of a fair amount is ordered.