The Grounds for Divorce in England & Wales
Grounds for divorce are a set of regulations specifying the circumstances under which a person will be granted a divorce by the courts.
Unreasonable behaviour is the most common grounds for divorce in the UK as it enables couples to divorce without needing to wait 2-5 years of separation.
In order to start divorce proceedings in England or Wales, you need to have been married for at least 12 months.
One party must also live in England or Wales, or if living abroad, must see England or Wales are their permanent home.
You can’t just divorce because you don’t get on anymore, you have to satisfy the court that you qualify under the divorce law. Here are the grounds for divorce as they currently stand:
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- 2 years separation with consent
- 5 years separation - no consent required
The Petitioner (the person who starts divorce proceedings) must prove to the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by establishing one of the five available grounds for divorce.
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 your spouse.
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.
Adultery can be used as the basis for a divorce petition whether you and your spouse are still living together or have separated, but in either case not more than six months must have elapsed since you became aware of the adultery before the petition is sent to the court, unless the adultery is continuing.
2. 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.
Unreasonable behaviour is the most commonly used reason on which to prove the ground for divorce in England and Wales.
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, having no common interests or pursuing a separate social life may well suffice.
Using mild allegations may also make it easier to agree the contents of the petition with your spouse before you issue it.
Please Note: You need to provide sufficient reasons as to why your marriage can no longer work, which we will help you do when drafting the divorce petition as part of our Unreasonable Behaviour Divorce Service for £189.
Where 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. 2 years separation with consent
By consent you and your spouse have been living apart for at least two years, immediately preceding the presentation of the petition (or 'Initial Writ' in Scotland) and you both agree to a divorce.
If you are separated but still living togehter for financial reasons of because of children, you must show the court that you've been living separated lives, which can be difficult.
You can still get a divorce, but you may need to explore using another ground for divorce to base your divorce on, such as unreasonable behaviour.
5. 5 years separation - 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, your spouse need not consent to the divorce.
However, they 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; we can also help you with this, so fear not.
Find more information on the grounds for divorce and the UK divorce procedure.
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.
In any 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:
- File a Divorce Petition
- Acknowledgement of Service
- Application for Decree Nisi
- Application for Decree Absolute
If both parties are in agreement to the divorce and file an uncontested divorce, the divorce should be granted within 4-5 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.
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?
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.
Which divorce service is right for me?
Use our quick and easy online tool to find out which of our divorce services is ideal for your situation. We've helped 180,000 people time save time, stress and money since 1999. -
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