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What Are Grounds For Divorce In England & Wales

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    To get a divorce in England or Wales before no fault divorce became law in April 2022 you had to prove ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ by establishing one of five available ‘facts’.

    The five recognised facts, referred to as grounds for divorce were:

    • adultery
    • unreasonable behaviour
    • Desertion
    • Two years separation with consent
    • Five years of separation

    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; 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 in the UK in 2022?

    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 that were previously used in the UK.

    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.

    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.

    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 to have your entire divorce procedure handled for you, then view our Online Divorce Service for £199 – 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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