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News & Articles

Osborne Morris & Morgan > News and Articles > Family > What do I have to do to get a Divorce?

What do I have to do to get a Divorce?

Posted on 15 Jun 2016, in Family

While the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that divorce rates are at their lowest for 40 years, new research suggests almost 3 million people in the UK are living in a “distressed” relationship.

Proving Divorce

The figures, taken from UK relationship charity Relate’s report, Relationship Distress Monitor, suggest that nearly one in five (18%) married or cohabiting couples, equating to 1.4 million couples, are in an unhappy relationship.

While working through issues can solve marital difficulties, in some cases the breakdown of the marriage is so irretrievable that divorce is the only option. Statistics estimate that 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce.

In our article “Thinking of Getting a Divorce? Consider These 5 Key Things First” we looked at some questions to help you decide if your marriage was salvageable.

If you’ve decided that it cannot be rescued and are starting to look to start divorce proceedings, you may be wondering how you can prove that your marriage has broken down.

We briefly touched on this in “What Getting a Divorce Actually Entails”. In this article we’ll cover, in more detail, the reasons (‘facts’) you can give to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down.


When Can I Get Divorced?

To file or petition for divorce, you and your husband or wife will need to:

  • have been married for at least a year (two years in Northern Ireland)
  • have a marriage that is legally recognised in the UK
  • show that your relationship has ‘irretrievably’ (permanently) broken down
  • meet specific rules about how long you have lived in the country


What Are Grounds for Divorce?

There is only one legal ‘ground’ for divorce, which is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. When you apply for a divorce, you (as the person who starts the proceedings you are known as the ‘Petitioner’) must show there are good reasons for ending your marriage. You do this by establishing ‘facts’ for divorce.

There are five types of ‘facts’ that you can use in divorce proceedings.


1. Adultery

You can use adultery as a reason for divorce if the following apply:

  • Your spouse has hadsexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex
  • Because of this, you find itimpossible to live with your spouse.
  • You became aware of the adultery no more than six months before sending the divorce petition to the court (unless the adultery is continuing).

You cannot petition for divorce on the basis of your own adultery; you will need to use one of the other facts such as unreasonable behaviour.

To prove adultery, you will need to provide the court with:

  • details of the adultery, such as dates
  • statements from you and your spouse
  • an admission of adultery from your spouse

If your husband or wife won’t admit to adultery, or if a relationship took place that didn’t involve sexual intercourse, then it can be advisable to use ‘unreasonable behaviour’ instead. This can help prevent delays later on.


2. Unreasonable Behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is now the most common fact on which to prove the ground for divorce in England and Wales.

If your husband or wife behaves so badly that you can’t carry on living with them, then you can use ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as a reason for divorce.

Unreasonable behaviour includes:

  • Physical violence
  • Verbal abuse (such as threats or insults)
  • Not providing affection or attention
  • Controlling behaviour (e.g. not letting you leave the house)
  • Drunkenness or drug-taking
  • Gambling or other financial irresponsibility
  • Actions that give you reason to believe they are having an affair

Other examples of unreasonable behaviour include: disrespectful or undermining behaviour, lack of a sex life, absence of emotional support or showing no interest in your career.

If the allegations are particularly serious, such as violence, then one or two allegations may be enough. If they are less serious, then you may be required to give five or six.


3. Desertion

You can use ‘desertion’ as a reason for divorce if you can prove that your spouse has left you:

  • without your agreement
  • without a good reason
  • to end your relationshipfor more than two years in the last two and a half years
  • for more than two years in the last two and a half years

You can still claim desertion if you have lived together for up to a total of 6 months in this period.


4. Two Years Separation (with Consent)

You can get a divorce if you’ve lived separately for more than two years, and both agree (your spouse must agree in writing) to the divorce.
You can have lived together for a total of up to six months during this time, if you’ve been apart for two years or more altogether.


5. Five Years Separation (without Consent)

If you’ve lived apart for more than five years you can use this as a reason for divorce, without the agreement of your spouse.

This is usually enough to be granted a divorce, however your spouse can object if it will cause them ‘extreme’ difficulties (usually financial).



Since this article has been published we no longer offer Family Law services, but we can help you with:


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