What are the grounds for divorce?

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Grounds for divorce

To divorce in the UK you must prove that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. 

There is just one ground for divorce in the UK – that being that your marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down.’ The question then is how do you prove to the family court that your marriage has broken down irretrievably? That points to the 5 legal grounds for divorce (see below) that you must prove. Put another way, the question to ask is what counts as unreasonable behaviour for divorce? Only once you have proved one of these 5 grounds for divorce can the family court confirm in law that your marriage has ended.

So, the 5 grounds to prove unreasonable behaviour in your marriage are as follows. You must satisfy the family court on one or more of these grounds. The questions that your divorce lawyer will be looking at will include:-

1) Divorce: what is Unreasonable Behaviour?

In the context of divorce proceedings, what counts as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ might include your husband/wife being:-

  • violent or abusive
  • financially irresponsible
  • emotionally unsupportive

By its nature, the ‘what is unreasonable behaviour’ is a subjective test. What is unreasonable to you may be very specific, and individual to you and your marriage.

2) Divorce: what is Adultery?

Obviously, this is where your husband or wife has sex with another person. Perhaps not so obviously, to be considered adultery in the context of divorce law, the sexual act must be with someone of the opposite gender. Same sex sex does not currently constitute adultery for the purposes of UK divorce law, and will not therefore be one of the 5 grounds for divorce that can end your marriage.

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 for divorce (after the 6 month period has passed).

3) Divorce: what is 2 years separation?

2 years separation is where you:-

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

Separated (in the context of your marriage and therefore also in the context of divorce law) means the relationship (marriage) has ended. Whilst you can remain under the same roof, you must not live together as a married couple. The period of separation of the marries couple must be 2 years and unbroken (ie no reconciliation).

The 5 grounds for divorce include unreasonable behaviour

4) Divorce: what is 5 years separation?

This part of divorce law (and more particularly the 5 tests that establish that the marriage has broken down irretrievably) simply needs 5 years separation (see aboveas against the 2 years separation rule).

With the 5 years separation rule, you do NOT then need your husband or wife’s permission (‘consent’) to end the marriage (as with the shorter 2 year ground which does require the consent of your husband or wife).

5) Divorce: What is Desertion?

This ground for divorce means leaving your partner without warning, and without their agreement. This is rarely used as a ground for divorce/to establish that your marriage has broken down irretrievably.

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