Gwen Stefani & Gavin Rossdale: Adultery and the Divorce Process

TMZ reported on Monday that Gwen Stefani has filed for divorce from Gavin Rossdale, her husband of 13 years, due to 'irreconcilable differences'. Their public statement indicates that the decision was mutual and that the musicians filed the application and response jointly. However, word is according to TMZ's sources that Stefani believes that Rossdale was cheating on her.

If they were divorcing in Ontario, what affect, if any, would a claim by Stefani that Rossdale committed adultery have on the divorce process and any issues arising therein?

The short answer: Probably none.

Adultery and Process of Divorce

Under the Divorce Act's no fault regime, the only legal ground for divorce is a 'breakdown of marriage' which can be substantiated by either (a) the parties living separate and apart for one year, or (b) the other spouse has committed adultery or treated the applicant spouse with mental or physical cruelty.

Most Ontario couples typically go the route of living a full year separate and apart. However, when an applicant spouse is claiming that the other committed adultery, the Divorce Act technically does permit a divorce to be granted in less than a year. If the rumours of adultery were true, Stefani could theoretically fast track the divorce if she is able to provide sufficient evidence to satisfy a court of Rossdale's adultery. While absolute and incontrovertible evidence is unnecessary, there must be more than a mere suspicion of cheating.

However, this route to divorce can be inefficient. With the time and effort spent to prepare the divorce application on the basis of adultery and the glut of cases in the family courts, arguing infidelity as the basis of marriage breakdown is unlikely to speed up the process. As the end result is the same regardless, it may be more practical and cost efficient for Stefani to base the divorce application on the ground of living separate and apart for a full year like many other divorcing Canadians.

Adultery and Corollary Claims

In the end, adultery has no substantial implications within Canada's 'no fault' divorce regime. The rights and obligations of the parties relating to custody, access, support, and property division are generally not affected by the reasons motivating the marriage's termination. Thus, whether or not Rossdale cheated on Stefani would be irrelevant to any claims either may have against the other.

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