Home Grounds For Divorce What Are The Grounds For Divorce?

What Are The Grounds For Divorce?

If you’re considering applying for a divorce then you need to know what the grounds for divorce are and which one is the most suitable to your situation.

Simply put, they are a set of five reasons for divorce you can give to explain why your marriage has irretrievably broken down until a no-fault divorce system is in place.


    To get a divorce in England or Wales, you must prove to the Court that your marriage has irretrievably broken down.

    There are many reasons for a divorce, but to prove that your marriage has broken down, the Petitioner needs to use one of the five grounds for divorce;

    • Adultery
    • Unreasonable behaviour
    • Desertion
    • 2 years separation with consent
    • 5 years separation (no consent required)

    You can only apply for a divorce if the following is true;

    • Your marriage has lasted over 12 months.
    • Your relationship has permanently broken down.
    • The UK is your permanent home or the permanent home of your husband or wife.

    There is much to know about the grounds for divorce, so let’s take a look at each of them in detail.

    1. Adultery

    Adultery is a complicated ground to use to prove the breakdown of your marriage.

    This ground is used in around 20% of divorce applications in England and Wales.

    There are four main points to be aware of when considering using Adultery;

    • Adultery is when your husband or wife has had sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex.
    • Adultery cannot be used in same-sex relationships.
    • You cannot file for divorce on the basis of your own Adultery.
    • You must file for divorce within six months of finding out about the Adultery taking place.

    You must prove that either through actual admission or through sufficient circumstantial evidence your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex and that you find it intolerable to live with them.

    If a sexual liaison short of sexual intercourse has taken place, it’s suggested that the unreasonable behaviour ground is used as you cannot proceed on the grounds of your own adultery.

    It doesn’t matter if you are still living together or have separated providing it’s within the six-month time period.

    More information on how to use adultery as your grounds for divorce.

    2. Unreasonable Behaviour

    Unreasonable behaviour is the most commonly used grounds for divorce in England and Wales, due to the lack of a no-fault divorce system.

    It accounts for around 45% of all divorce applications as it covers a lot of aspects.

    To use unreasonable behaviour you must show that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her.

    • You must provide 4-5 examples of behaviour that has caused your marriage to breakdown.
    • You cannot use your own behaviour, it must be the behaviour of your husband or wife.
    • You do not need the permission of your spouse, however, agreeing on the reasons before can help keep relations amicable.

    In an unreasonable behaviour petition, the Petitioner sets out a number of allegations against the Respondent.

    These allegations might include references to excessive drinking or financial extravagance, for example; but it’s worth bearing in mind that the court doesn’t insist on really severe allegations of unreasonable behaviour in order to grant a divorce.

    Relatively mild allegations such as devoting too much time to a career or hobby, having no common interests or pursuing a separate social life may well suffice.

    If you can agree on the reasons with your spouse before submitting the divorce petition, it can help to reduce the acrimony and ensure a swift resolution to your divorce.

    3. Desertion

    Desertion is defined as when your spouse deserted you without your consent for a continuous period of at least two years; this ground for divorce is almost never used as it requires the mental intent to divorce throughout the two-year period, which can be very difficult to prove.

    4. Separation of 2 years with consent

    You can divorce after two years of separation if you have been living apart and both parties are in agreement. This grounds for divorce is the only ‘no-fault’ divorce option available to applicants at the moment.

    If you are separated but still living together for financial reasons or because of children, you must show the court that you’ve been living separate lives, which can be difficult.

    If you can’t prove that you’ve been living separate lives then it might be worth exploring another option, such as unreasonable behaviour.

    Information on how to divorce using 2 years separation as your reason for divorce.

    5. Separation of 5 years – no consent required

    You and your spouse have been living apart for at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the divorce petition.

    In this instance, you do not require the agreement or consent to divorce from your ex-partner.

    However, the Respondent can hold up the final decree if they believe they would be financially worse off, but this is very uncommon.

    It’s also important to note that you need to know the address of your spouse, otherwise the proceedings can become more complex, costly and longer.

    There are caveats to using the 5-year separation rule so if you are unsure how it works and what’s involved, it’s best to call us on 01793 384 029 to find out more.

    You can still get a divorce, but you may need to explore using another ground for divorce such as unreasonable behaviour if your case is complicated.

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      How do you start divorce proceedings?

      The grounds for divorce you choose to prove the breakdown of your marriage will not affect the procedure you need to follow in order to obtain a divorce.

      So, whether you hire divorce solicitors to handle your case, you try to do it yourself or you work with an online divorce company, like ourselves; the process to divorce will stay the same.

      In an uncontested divorce case, each ground will require the same procedure to be followed for a decree absolute to be granted.

      You can start divorce proceedings by completing an application for divorce (D8 divorce petition) and sending it to the Family Court that serves as your regional divorce centre along with:

      • your original marriage certificate or an official copy (not a photocopy)
      • the correct court fee payment or an application for fee remission (court fee reduction)

      There are 4 stages to divorce proceedings in England and Wales and are as follows:

      1. File a Divorce Petition
      2. Acknowledgement of Service
      3. Application for Decree Nisi
      4. Application for Decree Absolute

      If both parties are in agreement to the divorce and file an uncontested divorce, the divorce should be granted within 5-6 months and will drastically reduce the cost of divorce.

      This will also enable you to file for divorce yourself without needing to hire a solicitor to act on your behalf.

      There is a lot to know about the grounds for divorce so don’t rush making the decision as it can affect how long a divorce takes.

      More information on the grounds for divorce that you may find useful;

      More information on the grounds for divorce

      Depending on your individual situation, choosing the right grounds for divorce can be complex and will require some thought.

      For example, if your spouse isn’t prepared to name the person he/she committed adultery with or indeed admits that it happened, you would need to consider using other grounds for divorce to prove the breakdown of your marriage, e.g. Unreasonable behaviour.

      2 years separation with consent is the most amicable and quick way to obtain a divorce, but this requires a level of agreement that isn’t possible for every couple.

      If you cannot agree to the grounds of 2 years separation you would need to consider filing for divorce using unreasonable behaviour or waiting until you’ve been separated for 5 years, which may be too long for you to wait.

      Final thought; we’d advise calling us on 01793 384 029 and speaking to an adviser about the process involved with filing for divorce using each ground.

      How can Divorce-Online help you with your divorce?

      Divorce-Online can assist you with formulating your grounds for divorce and with the divorce process with our award-winning low-cost DIY divorce packages or our Managed Divorce Packages.

      We can also advise you on your grounds for divorce and assist you with preparing more complicated divorce petitions involving unreasonable behaviour and 5 year separation without an address.

      This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce Online Blog and Managing Director of Online Legal Service Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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