Should adultery be rewarded?

The Herald-Sun leads this morning with the story of an ex-mistress who, thanks to new laws legally re-defining relationships, received a $100,000 pay-out from her lover when they broke up after 20 years. The case was settled out of court after the woman’s lawyers pointed out that ‘the laws give some mistresses, as well as de facto and same-sex couples, the same rights as married couples.’

As I argued when this reform was being considered, I think the state should faciltate relationships people want to have, but not impose rules on the parties unless there are strong public policy reasons for doing so. The most important to these is to provide for the continuing care and support for children. Partners (usually women, of course) who have looked after kids should get pay-outs after relationship breakdown to encourage active parenting.

But rewarding a childless mistress seems to me to be in an entirely different category. This encourages adultery and gold-diggers, at significant emotional and financial risk to the first family. While prohibiting this kind of behaviour is pointless, it should not be encouraged by lessening the risks/increasing the rewards to those threatening existing relationships. How relationship failure between married and not-married people is dealt with should be up to the parties involved, without any legal intervention.

16 thoughts on “Should adultery be rewarded?

  1. This encourages adultery and gold-diggers, at significant emotional and financial risk to the first family

    I guess it depends on your perspective.
    It might – theoretically – encourage the predatory female “Bunny Burners” of Hollywood stereotype to be more active in pursuit of rich men. But the prospect of having to pay out good money to an ex-mistress, instead of just discarding her like some used rag, should force those same men to think very hard about whether they want to indulge in a dalliance, and in that respect it could act as a very big DIScouragement to adultery.


  2. Alan – Yes, good point. Though I suspect for the men there is already a financial deterrent in that their current wife might divorce them and take a large share of their money.

    Another consideration is that given a finite pool of assets to be distributed in the event of complete relationship breakdown should the mistress really get anything at the expense of the wife and the kids?


  3. I’m with Alan the law might actually discourage the keeping of mistresses – at least for a 20 year period. But doing nothing to discourage adultery for one night stands or even a few year stand.

    Why discourage adultery anyway? Whats wrong with it? There is a strange fixation, especially in USA where they call it cheating, with people who have more than one relationship at a time. I can think of a million worse things a partner can do in a relationship than having an affair.

    you said: “Another consideration is that given a finite pool of assets to be distributed in the event of complete relationship breakdown should the mistress really get anything at the expense of the wife and the kids?”

    Its more likely to be with these people – can the creditors, private school fees, builder, etc, get anything before the expensive wife and mistress.


  4. FXH- If people want to have open relationships, fine. It seems to work for a small minority. But it isn’t marriage:

    “Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man
    and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily
    entered into for life.”; (Marriage Act s.46).

    I think most would agree that if both parties acknowledge that a marriage has collapsed an affair is understandable and only adultery in a technical sense. But when the marriage hasn’t collapsed, it is a gross breach of trust. This is one of the few aspects of old sexual morality that survived the sexual revolution.

    I don’t see why you (and the government) want to collapse all romantic relationships into a single type.


  5. Unlike alanc I don’t think this move will discourage adultery. They are powerful psychological reasons driving people to have multiple partners, which nothing – not religious sanction, not the threat of monetary loss, not even the threat of losing daily access to one’s kids, has been able to suppress.

    This will merely change the nature of the relationships. Twenty-year mistresses will lose out in favour of short-term flings. And the penalties imposed make seeing a prostitute relatively more attractive (from an economic perspective).

    I’d be interested in the legal basis of the payment. Was it made for damages? For breach of contract? Surely you can’t just get a payment because someone broke up with you!


  6. According to the Hun, they settled out of court. Better than a stoush, I suppose.

    I think prostitutes are ethically less troubling than mistresses, though that probably isn’t how the general public would see it. But there isn’t the same emotional betrayal in going to a prostitute as there is in having a mistress.


  7. Yes but the legal basis of the court’s ordering a payment, in the event that it happened, would be interesting. What is the money being paid for?

    I was thinking in terms of expected cost (a certain $X for the services of a lady of the night, as against a possible $X times 1000 for a scorned mistress). Beyond not wanting to engage in either activity I haven’t thought much about the ethics involved.


  8. How many 20 year affairs are there anyway? And mostly it’s rich men who have them. (It is expensive enough keeping one woman in the style to which she like to become accustomed, key alone two.) They can afford the pay out to the mistress, which is going to be a lot cheaper than divorce.


  9. This seems like a somewhat unusual case, in that the “affair” lasted for 20 years and was somewhat public. I would guess that most cases of adultery would fail the “public recognition of the relationship” test.

    This 20 year committed relationship sounds like a marriage in all but name.


  10. Okay, so $100,000 over 20 years is $5,000 per year and approximately $100 per week. So assuming one liason with his mistrees per week that is on par with a visit to St.Kilda once per week.


  11. Retrospective pricing of voluntary occupation might well spread to scout masters saying they gave the best years of their life and demnding cash.
    The truth is that the feminists have the ear of the current govenment. Laying on you back is to be as profitable as being a waitress in a tea shop.


  12. Fully agree. These stupid laws passed at the request of the feminist mafia will drive another wedge between people, and turn relationships into economic units. There is already massive panic now among people about how much a new partner can sting them for.

    The conversion of our lives into an overregulated legal fistfight continues.


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