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What Are The New Grounds For Divorce in The UK? (2024)

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    This article will reference the grounds for divorce in England and Wales in 2024 whilst also referencing details from the previous divorce law before it was updated on April 6 2022.

    Before the transformative shift to no-fault divorce in the UK on 6 April 2022, the sole ground for divorce was the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of a marriage.

    The Grounds for Divorce Before April 2022 Changes

    This breakdown had to be substantiated through one of five specific ‘facts’, each presenting its own set of challenges and requirements:

    • Adultery The spouse committed adultery, making it intolerable to continue living together. This required proof of infidelity, often leading to invasive and distressing evidence gathering.
    • Unreasonable Behaviour Instances of domestic abuse, infidelity beyond adultery, or persistent unpleasantness fell under this category. It required the petitioner to outline specific examples of behaviour that made living with the spouse intolerable.
    • Desertion – This applied when a spouse deserted the petitioner against their will for at least two years, emphasising a unilateral decision to end cohabitation without consent.
    • Two Years Separation with Consent Both parties agreed to the divorce after living apart for at least two years, showcasing mutual acknowledgment of the marriage’s end.
    • Five Years Separation without Consent If separated for five years, one could petition for divorce without the other spouse’s consent, allowing unilateral action after a significant period apart.

    You previously had to demonstrate to the court that your relationship had reached a point where it could no longer be salvaged by citing one of the five grounds for divorce as the reason for the marriage breakdown.

    Please note; that this article applies to the divorce process in England & Wales only – To find out about the divorce process in Scotland please visit: Facts About Scottish Divorce Law

    What are the grounds for divorce now in the UK in 2024?

    The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 became law on April 6, 2022, and removed the concept of fault from the divorce process – the requirement of placing blame or assigning a specific “reason” to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

    This reform is widely expected to reduce acrimony and result in a more harmonious separation for many divorcing couples.

    Under the new no-fault divorce law, you will no longer be asked to prove the irretrievable breakdown of marriage to the court by citing one of the five grounds for divorce previously used in the UK.

    No-fault divorce has undoubtedly made it easier for couples to get a quick divorce.

    The new divorce act dispenses with reasons, or ‘facts’ as grounds for divorce, replacing them with a single ‘Statement of Irretrievable Breakdown’ which can be filed by either spouse or both.

    This means divorcing couples can now file for divorce solely on the basis of the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage without citing grounds for divorce.

    Furthermore, the option for either spouse to contest the divorce has also been removed, meaning there is less chance of the divorce process descending into a long-protracted court battle, allowing the application to proceed without friction or additional costs.

    Speak to our friendly team on Live Chat for quick and reliable answers or call us on 01793 384 029 for information and advice on how no-fault divorce works.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can I still use my husband’s adultery to get divorced?

    Yes, you can still use adultery as your reason for divorce, but not in the way you probably expect.

    The only ground for divorce you now need to cite is the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. If adultery has caused this, you can start a divorce application.

    However, this does not mean that you can cite the adultery directly or name the other person. No-fault divorce means that applications for divorce pass through the court without blame.

    How long do I need to be separated to start a divorce?

    There is no time limit on separation when it comes to divorce. You must have been married for at least 12 months before starting a divorce application.

    Some people wrongly believe that after a long separation, divorce becomes automatic. This is a common myth, unfortunately.

    Under the previous divorce law, couples needed to wait for 2 years of separation before filing for an amicable divorce, but this changed in April 2022.

    Is no intimacy grounds for divorce?

    Having no intimacy can play a role in the breakdown of a marriage. Whilst it’s not ‘grounds for divorce’ as such, if having no intimacy has led to the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage, you can start a divorce application.

    As we previously mentioned, the court no longer requires an explanation for your reasons for divorce.

    Do you need a reason to divorce in 2024?

    No, you do not need to provide the court with a reason why you wish to divorce. To apply for a divorce, you simply make a statement of irretrievable breakdown on the divorce petition.

    Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage does not need any evidence, proof, or explanation. Previously, before the 2022 divorce law reform, applicants needed to explain their reasons for wanting a divorce, which caused unnecessary stress and worry for many couples.

    Do The Grounds for Divorce Affect Financial Settlement?

    If you’re filing for divorce because of the actions of a spouse like adultery, bad debts, spending problems, or unreasonable behaviour you may feel you should be ‘compensated’ for the difficulties your spouse has put you through.

    While the behaviour of a spouse is often the driving force behind the divorce, it’s a common misconception that the grounds for divorce affect the financial settlement and the amount the other spouse might eventually receive.

    What about Personal Misconduct?

    Personal misconduct will rarely be considered when determining the divorce financial settlement.

    For that to happen, the misconduct has to be extremely serious in order to justify the court ‘penalising’ the misbehaving spouse and reducing their settlement.

    Some examples of extremely serious behaviour include cases where the wife has shot or stabbed her husband, the husband has attacked his wife with a razor, or has committed incest with his children.

    If you believe a partner has committed misconduct, you need to speak with divorce financial settlement solicitors and get professional advice and support.

    What about Financial Misconduct?

    Courts are generally more likely to consider financial misconduct such as excessive gambling, unjustified lavish spending, or placing assets beyond the reach of a spouse rather than personal misconduct when it comes to the divorce financial settlement.

    These cases, however, are also quite rare, rather than the norm, and it will largely only be very serious misconduct that impacts the other party financially which will be considered.

    If the court does decide to take financial misconduct into account, the principle is that the court should not be punitive for its own sake but should apply its judgement from a legal perspective and not a moral one.

    This could mean the ‘wronged party’ could, under extreme circumstances, get a better financial settlement or more assets to produce a fairer outcome.

    When serious financial misconduct has been found, the court will undertake to rectify the wrong caused to the innocent party by ‘adding back’ the money or assets that have been acquired. This could be by deviating from the starting point of a 50/50 sharing and giving more assets to the innocent party.

    How long do you have to be separated before divorce is automatic?

    There is no such thing in the UK as automatic divorce due to a period of separation. Even if a married couple has been living apart for several years, or even decades, they will still be legally married.

    The myth is probably because previously married couples who decided to get divorced would sometimes need to wait a certain amount of time before they could start the divorce application process.

    The length of waiting time depended primarily on whether the divorce was to be contested by one spouse or whether both partners agreed to the divorce. Furthermore, the grounds for divorce cited on the application form could also affect the waiting time.

    If I don’t need grounds for divorce, how does the process work now?

    Now, to get a divorce in England or Wales you simply declare that your marriage has irretrievably broken down – provided you have been married for at least 12 months – this requirement has not changed.

    • To apply for a divorce under the new divorce law you complete a statement on the divorce petition stating that the marriage has broken down irretrievably
    • The person making the application then has 28 days to serve their spouse with the divorce papers – the default method of notification will be via email
    • The court must take the statement of irretrievable breakdown to be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably
    • After a minimum 20-week ‘reflection period’ and when the applicant or applicants have confirmed they still wish to proceed the court will make a conditional order – previously called decree nisi
    • Following a further 6 weeks ‘cooling-off’ period the court will grant a final order – previously called a decree absolute to formally end the marriage

    It is recommended that the mandatory 20-week reflection period is used to discuss and agree on arrangements like their financial settlement if the divorce is inevitable.

    How To Get Started Today

    The removal of blame by citing adultery or unreasonable behaviour and also the length-based separation rules is, therefore, a welcome change to the government’s divorce law which has undoubtedly modernised the divorce process.

    If you would like your entire divorce procedure handled for you, view our Online Divorce Service for £249. Using our service allows you to carry on with your life without the stress or worry of completing the divorce process yourself.

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