What are the grounds for divorce?

To divorce, you must prove that your marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down.’ The test applied for this is establishing one of the five following grounds.

1) Unreasonable behaviour

This might include your partner being:-

  • violent or abusive
  • financially irresponsible
  • emotionally unsupportive

By its nature, this is a subjective test. What is unreasonable to you may be very specific, and individual to you and your marriage.

2) Adultery

Obviously, this is where your partner has sex with another. Perhaps not so obviously, the sexual act must be with someone of the opposite gender.

If you remain as a couple for 6 months (after the adultery), you are deemed to have ‘accepted’ the behaviour. You can’t then give adultery as one of the 5 grounds (after the 6 month period has passed).

3) 2 years separation

This is where you:-

  • have been ‘separated’ for 2 years (or more); AND
  • both agree to the divorce (this is often called ‘consent’)

Separated means the relationship has ended. Whilst you can remain under the same roof, you must not live together as a couple. The period of separation must be 2 years and unbroken (ie no reconciliation).

4) 5 years separation

This is simply 5 years separation (see above). You do NOT then need your partner’s permission (‘consent’) as with the shorter 2 year ground.

5) Desertion

This means leaving your partner without warning, and without their agreement. This is rarely used.