What are the risks in the event of adultery?

According to sacred texts, the 7th commandment prohibits the sin of the flesh or fornication: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). During the Middle Ages, women who committed adultery had their heads shaved, were whipped, and were sent to convents. Before the 1975 law, there were criminal sanctions, with prison sentences for women ranging from 3 months to 2 years (article 337 of the penal code), while husbands faced fines ranging from 360 to 7,200 Francs. Since the decriminalization in 1975, adultery is no longer viewed in the same way.

However, the law still emphasizes that spouses owe each other moral and physical fidelity. Defining these obligations and the boundaries of conjugal duty can be challenging. The primary sanction is divorce for fault. Divorce will be granted by the courts after the person who had an extramarital affair is recognized as being at fault. Divorce can also be granted with shared faults if both spouses have committed respective wrongdoings.

If the betrayed spouse leaves the conjugal home, the fault can be excusable due to the adultery of the other spouse. Sanctions will depend on various conditions, such as the behavior of the spouses and the duration of the extramarital relationship. If the conditions were particularly humiliating (such as a relationship with a sibling or a friend), the betrayed spouse can request damages for the harm suffered.

The spouse who committed adultery may lose their right to spousal support (compensation payments to offset disparities between spouses). The judge may refuse to grant these compensation payments if requested by the guilty spouse (article 271 of the civil code). If adultery has been forgiven, faults cannot be held against the person who committed the wrongdoing in the context of a divorce.

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