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What are the grounds for divorce?

This article appeared in the Mercury newspaper on 3rd November 2010.

Linsey Duggan explains the legalities around petitioning for a divorce in England.


I want to get a divorce. What legal grounds can I use to obtain one?

To obtain a divorce it has to be shown that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. You cannot simply state ‘irreconcilable divorce advicedifferences’ or the fact that you have drifted apart as a reason for divorce.  The law requires that this is shown by stating one of the following five reasons as grounds for divorce:

Adultery

This means that your spouse must have had sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex. This can be proved by an admission or by sufficient circumstantial evidence. By stating adultery as grounds for divorce you are stating that you find it intolerable to go on living with your spouse.

You cannot petition for a divorce on the basis of your own adultery. In these circumstances either your spouse needs to petition for divorce on the basis of adultery or you need to be able to state a different reason for divorce.

Unreasonable behaviour

Here you have to show that you find your partner’s behaviour so unreasonable that you cannot be expected to continue to live with them. In reality this can cover a broad spectrum of behaviour from abuse to excessive drinking, financial irresponsibility or even things such as devoting too much time to their career, to the detriment of family life, lack of intimacy or lack of communication.

Unreasonable behaviour is now the most common reason cited for divorce in England and Wales, in part because of its flexibility and ability to be used under varied circumstances.

Two years separation - with consent for the divorce

This is simply when you and your spouse has been living apart for two years from the breakdown of the marriage and both of you agree to the divorce.

Five years separation – consent for divorce not required

If you have been living apart from your spouse for more than five years then you can petition for divorce without their consent.

Desertion for a period of at least two years

This is when your spouse has left you, against your will, for more than two years. Desertion is rarely used as grounds for divorce as other more suitable reasons can usually be found.

Your divorce lawyer will help you to match your circumstances to the most appropriate legal grounds for divorce.

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