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Grounds for Divorce

Not sure whether you or your partner can legally seek a divorce? Well, in England and Wales there is technically only one ground for divorce and that is that ‘the marriage has irretrievably broken down’.

However, because this is such a wide concept the Courts have provided a list of five facts that can be used to show that the marriage has ‘broken down’. If you can provide the Courts with evidence of one of these five facts then you will be entitled to a divorce. There is no need for you to dwell on the details though – leave that to us!

Not sure whether you or your partner can legally seek a divorce? Well, in England and Wales there is technically only one ground for divorce and that is that ‘the marriage has irretrievably broken down’.

However, because this is such a wide concept the Courts have provided a list of five facts that can be used to show that the marriage has ‘broken down’. If you can provide the Courts with evidence of one of these five facts then you will be entitled to a divorce. There is no need for you to dwell on the details though – leave that to us!

We can quickly help you establish which of the five facts is the most appropriate to your circumstances during your free initial consultation. We are available over the phone, or in person, just give us a call on 0333 456 4444 to see if you’re eligible.

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The Five Facts of Divorce

1) Adultery

To use this fact as the basis of divorce your spouse must have had sexual intercourse with someone else (of the opposite sex) and you must now find it intolerable to continue living with them. If your spouse has had an extra-marital relationship without sexual intercourse – or if it was with someone of the same sex – this legal definition of adultery doesn’t apply and unreasonable behaviour is the recommended basis for your divorce.

The use of adultery as the basis of divorce is not as common as most people think. There are further restricting conditions relating to your knowledge of the adultery and, without your spouse admitting to the affair, it is particularly difficult to prove.

2) Unreasonable Behaviour

This is the most common basis for divorce and is sometimes referred to as the ‘catch all’. It can cover a wide range of behaviour and, provided that the divorce petition is correctly drafted, can include the seemingly trivial as well as the most outrageous.  Clients often ask whether using or accepting ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as the basis of a divorce will adversely affect the financial settlement. In most cases the answer is ‘No’.

3) Desertion

This is the least used of the five facts because it is technical and difficult to prove. It has become somewhat obsolete following the Courts willingness to accept a spouse’s disappearance as an example of unreasonable behaviour.

4) Two Year Separation

This is the most frequently used basis for divorce when both parties have agreed that their marriage has come to an end but they are in no rush for a divorce. As there is no element of blame, divorces of this kind are common where the parties have remained on good terms. You will need the consent of your spouse to divorce on this basis.

At your free consultation we will be able to discuss with you the Court’s interpretation of ‘separated’ and help you calculate the overall period of your separation. We can also advise you on the real meaning of separated; it is sometimes possible to rely on this fact even if you are both still living under the same roof.

5) Five Year Separation

This final fact is rarely used as the basis of a divorce petition as most people prefer to get divorced soon after their separation. However it is of great importance to those who have been unable to rely on any of the other facts. You and your spouse must have lived apart for a period of five years prior to the presentation of the divorce petition and there is no need for your spouse’s consent. Interestingly, although all divorces can be contested, this is the only fact where there exists a legal defence to divorce.

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