No. 5 – Grounds For Divorce (England & Wales)
To end a marriage in England & Wales, you must establish it has broken down irretrievably. You prove this by fitting your circumstances into one of
- Adultery: This means your spouse has had full sexual
intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. You must have proof of adultery
or the respondent must admit to it. You cannot use this ground if the
respondent has had a sexual relationship short of intercourse, or if they have
had a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex. If this is the case,
then you must rely on the ground of unreasonable behaviour (see below). If you
go on living together for more than six months after you have found out about
the adultery you may not be able to use this ‘fact’ because you also have to
show the court that you find it ‘intolerable’ to go on living together.
- Unreasonable behaviour: This means your spouse has behaved
in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her. It
can include persistent violence, insults, coldness, disgusting personal hygiene,
inadequate sex – and more besides.
- Desertion for a period of at least two years: This means
that your partner has left you against your will, and you have been living apart
for at least two years. As you can get a divorce if you have been living part
for two years and you both agree, this ‘fact’ is not used very often.
- Two years separation with consent: Even if you both agree
to divorce, one person still has to be the petitioner; you can’t ask the court
for a divorce together. During the period of separation you can have had up to
six months trying to live together again. This doesn’t count towards the two
- Five years separation without consent: If you can’t get
your spouse to agree to a divorce and you don’t fit into the other ‘facts’ you
may have to wait until you have been apart for five years before you can
petition for a divorce. Your partner may still be able to block it by trying to
prove to the court that the divorce could cause gross financial or other
hardship, but this rarely happens.
** Legal information & advice **
You can obtain further information about divorce on FindLaw.
Depending on your circumstances, however, you may want to speak with a solicitor who specialises in family law. You can be matched with a family law solicitor in your area for free via
solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best
course of action and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.
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