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Does Adultery (Marital Infidelity) Have an Impact on a Divorce in Ottawa?

Marriages end for many different reasons. Adultery (marital infidelity) is cited as at least a partial factor in a significant share of divorce cases in Canada. This raises an important question: Does adultery have any impact on a divorce case? In Ottawa, the short answer is “no”—or at least there is no likely little practical effect from a legal perspective. In this article, our Ottawa divorce lawyer explains how adultery does—or, more accurately, does not—have an impact on a divorce in Ontario. 

Canada has No-Fault Divorce: The Only Ground is a Breakdown of the Marriage

Fault is not an issue in divorce cases in Canada. From a non-legal perspective, it is not unreasonable to put blame on a person who committed an act of adultery. However, legally speaking, divorce is not typically about fault. Under Canada law (Divorce Act), a divorce can be granted on the basis of adultery, however, practically speaking this is almost never pursued. The vast majority of divorces are granted based on the parties having been separated for at least a year.  

Adultery Has No Legal Impact On Any of the Following Key Divorce Issues

Adultery will likely have no direct impact on any material family law issues that are generally at stake in a divorce case. Along with other things, marital infidelity will have no automatic impact on any of the following issues: 

  • Property Division: When it comes to dividing property, Canadian courts do not consider adultery. Instead, the division of marital assets will be governed by the Family Law Act  in Ontario. How exactly the marital property of a divorcing couple will be split depends entirely on the specific circumstances of the case. An experienced Ottawa divorce lawyer can help. 
  • Spousal Support: Contrary to a common misconception. Adultery does not impact spousal support in Canada. Instead, the court looks at factors like each spouse’s financial need, their roles during the marriage, and how long they were married. A spouse who committed adultery could still be entitled to spousal support. Along the same lines, a spouse who committed an act of adultery will not automatically be required to pay spousal support. 
  • Child Custody & Child Visitation: Ontario uses the best interests of the child standard for child custody and child visitation. The parent’s moral conduct—at least in the context of an act of adultery—typically usually does not play a role unless. The one exception is if the act of marital infidelity occurred in a manner that put the child at risk. For example, imagine that a parent left a young child alone at home unsupervised in order to meet a person for the purposes of an intimate relationship. In that situation, the act of adultery is directly tied to parental responsibility. That could be held against a parent in a custody case. 
  • Child Support: In Canada, there are comprehensive child support guidelines in place. Child support decisions are made based on the parents’ income and the number of children. Adultery does not affect these decisions. The goal is to ensure that the children’s financial needs are met consistently. If you have any questions about child support, an experienced Ottawa divorce lawyer can help.  

How to Navigate a Divorce in Canada: Focus on the Future 

If adultery contributed to the end of a marriage, the parties still need to work through their issues. That being said, the legal divorce process itself is focused on the future and on material family law issues—not on assigning blame for why the marriage broke down. As the law in Ontario does now blame either party for the breakdown of the marriage, it is far more productive and far more effective to focus on practical issues. Among other things, you will need to consider how to split property fairly, ensure financial support for the spouse who needs it, and make the best arrangements for your children. Do not go it alone: A top-tier Ottawa divorce lawyer can review your case, help you understand your rights and responsibilities, and guide you through the legal process. 

Contact Our Ottawa Divorce Lawyer for a Confidential Consultation 

At RPB Family Law, our Ottawa divorce lawyers are devoted to providing personalized, future-focused advocacy to clients. Do you have any questions about your case? We can help. Contact us today to set up your completely confidential, initial case review. From our Ottawa law office, provide contested and uncontested divorce representation throughout Ontario.