Legal Blog

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover: Part II – Adultery

Click here to read Part 1.

In December of 1975 singer/songwriter Paul Simon wrote and released “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”


In my first blog article on this subject, I referred to Paul Simon’s song as a backdrop to a review of the Virginia fault grounds for divorce related to the concept of desertion (of which there are two types in Virginia: Actual and Constructive). I discussed what may happen in Virginia were you to follow any of Paul’s suggestions that you can jump start your new life as a single person if you  (i.e. “…Just slip out the back, Jack, make a new plan, Stan…Don’t need to be coy, Roy…Hop on the bus, Gus, don’t need to discuss much… Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free.”)


In this blog article, I delve further into Virginia’s fault grounds for divorce specifically relating to the fault ground of adultery by considering whether adding a girlfriend or boyfriend to the mix in getting yourself free is a bad idea or a really bad idea. In the song, Paul writes:

“The problem is all inside your head, she said to me. I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free. She said it’s really not my habit to intrude.  For the more I hope my meaning won’t be lost or misconstrued.  So I repeat myself, at the risk of being cruel.  There must be fifty ways to leave your lover…”


The term for the third wheel in a marriage, “paramour”, comes from the French translation for an illicit partner of a married person.   Adultery is still illegal in twenty-one (21) states. In Virginia it is on the book as a misdemeanor criminal offense, even though it is rarely prosecuted.  Chief among the legal consequences of adultery is the potential for denial of the offending spouse to receive spousal support.  Adultery can also affect division of martial assets in favor of the non-offending spouse if the behavior is egregious enough.


In addition, adultery in Virginia, even when still unproven, opens the doors to the aggrieved spouse being able to immediately file for divorce and seek interim relief of various nature including temporarily freezing joint bank accounts, potentially excluding the offending spouse from the martial home and generally having the initial upper hand in the divorce process.


The paramour in fifty ways to leave your lover suggests “…why don’t we both just sleep on it tonight. And I believe, in the morning you’ll begin to see the light.”  And then she kissed me and I realized she probably was right.…  I think we can assume what happens next.  The legal consequences of those next steps may lead to the paramour becoming a witness in a deposition taken during the course of the legal proceedings against the offending spouse.  In the morning when they both have started to see the light, second thoughts may creep in.  With the morning light may also come a host of legal trouble and expenses as consequences of this particular way to leave your lover.


The fallout of an adulterous relationship (outlined above) are just some of the more significant and potentially severe consequences for an extra-marital relationship on the marriage, finances and possible criminal culpability.


Planning for divorce requires you to consider the consequences of the suggestions by Paul Simon when he offered that “…the answer is easy if you take it logically…” and that “…there must be fifty ways to leave your lover.”  Consulting with a knowledgeable divorce lawyer, preferably one in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (found at is a good first step in the process of getting yourself free without finding yourself in legal jeopardy.


If you have any questions about divorce or other family law matters, please contact Richard Gray at or 703.745.1851


ABOUT RICHARD A. GRAY | 703.745.1851

Richard A. Gray focuses his practice on Family Law. Drawing on his undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology, Richard is sensitive to how these feelings can affect important decisions that a client is trying to make. Knowing that divorce cannot change the past he directs his clients to the future and helps families rebuild their lives with dignity and emotional stability. Rather than spending unnecessary resources prolonging conflict, Richard works with clients to find solutions for moving forward and maintaining civility with each other, especially for the sake of children.

Richard is an experienced litigator, yet he always looks for ways of reaching an agreement outside the courtroom. By educating his clients on the full continuum of divorce options, including collaborative law, mediation and litigation, he enables them to be in control of their decisions. Clients appreciate his one-on-one involvement with their cases and the direct access he provides. Richard listens carefully to clients’ goals and strives to achieve them. As a voice of reason he will also advise his clients if their goals are unreasonable or will cause great harm to the parties’ relationship.






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