Grounds For Divorce In England & Wales
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Divorce is a process that has a whole host of legal complications and technicalities. This process can be truly stressful and troubling – it can tear families apart and leave lasting damage. On the other hand, an amicable divorce where both parties agree on the terms can run extremely smoothly without any issues – a couple can divorce, split their estate, and continue with their lives.
Regardless of whether both parties involved are willing to proceed with a divorce, there are certain legal obligations and proof that must be given in order to start the process. This article aims to provide the solid facts as to the legal grounds for divorce in the UK.
Reasons For Divorce
Before we look at the legal grounds for divorce, it is important to consider briefly why marriages break down. Couples get married with the best intentions – they intend to spend the rest of their lives together. Despite this fact, marriages often break down due to irreconcilable reasons. A partner may be unfaithful, they may be violent, or they may simply fall out of love or become estranged from one another. Sadly, a look at the up-to-date figures on divorce proves there is no guarantee that a marriage will last forever.
What legal proof must be given to file a divorce petition?
Whilst the reasons for divorce listed above may seem totally acceptable, to actually start the proceedings and file a divorce petition, the instigating party must be able to irrefutably prove that their marriage has broken down and cannot be saved. The following five facts are the scenarios that the petitioner must be able to prove in order to file for a divorce:
Adultery and Divorce
Your partner has engaged in sexual activity with another person(s) and you no longer wish to continue your marriage as they have been unfaithful – but it’s not that straightforward in legal terms. This reason is not always given, as it is hard to prove that your spouse has been sexually active with another individual – they may contest this fact, or the individual they have formed a physical relationship with may be unwilling to admit to the act.
If you seek to name the individual that your spouse has formed a physical relationship with this could cause serious issues and could undo any amicable agreement that you had. Furthermore, this could actually delay the divorce process. Finally, you cannot use this reason if more than six months have elapsed since you discovered the adultery, unless it is ongoing at the time of the divorce petition.
*It is important to note that you cannot file a divorce based on your OWN adultery; only your spouse’s.
Unreasonable Behaviour – Divorce
This act is now considered to be the most common and easy to prove reason for divorce in the UK. To file a divorce using this reason, you must be able to prove that your spouse has acted unreasonably. Unreasonably is defined as behaviour that results in your inability to continue living with your spouse i.e. they have committed various acts and you feel you can no longer reconcile with them. During most divorce proceedings, the married couple will agree on the list of reasons stated to remain amicable.
If violence is one of the reasons listed as unreasonable behaviour then you may only be required to provide one or two allegations in total. Alternatively, if the reasons are considered “mild” i.e. neglect, carelessness with finances or too much emphasis on work, you may be required to provide a minimum of five allegations in total.
Desertion – Divorce
This fact is hardly ever used in today’s modern world but it is still listed as a legal allegation that can be used to file a divorce. Desertion is defined as when your spouse has deserted you without notice or contact for a continuous period of at least two years.
Two Years Separation With Consent
This is one of the most common facts for divorce and is usually the most amicable. A divorce can be petitioned if you have been separated from your spouse for at least two years. The defining factor, however, is that both parties agree to the divorce and this reason is applicable.
Five years separation without consent
The final reason is not as common but can still occur on rare occasions. Perhaps a couple no longer live together or simply haven’t given thought to an actual divorce? A divorce can be petitioned if you have been separated from your spouse for at least five years. The main difference to the two-year separation is that this reason can be used to file a divorce without your spouse’s consent.
Will the above reasons always have to be listed to file a divorce?
It is important to remember that the reasons listed above must be given if the divorce is contested. In most cases, if an individual files for divorce, their spouse will not defend the decision or seek to deny the divorce petition. Usually, married couples seeking a divorce will discuss the procedure in depth between each other and come to a joint decision.
Rather than arguing over who is to blame and why the divorce should legally be processed, couples involved in this scenario will instead devote their attention to sorting finances, deciding who should care for any children, and what should happen to any properties and possessions. In most cases, a divorce petition will be filed without issue, and you may not even have to declare any of the above facts as legal evidence.
If you wish to file a divorce petition, we strongly advised seeking legal advice from a divorce solicitor. This is even if you have an amicable relationship with your spouse. There is still a great deal of paperwork to process, legalities to discuss and of course the distribution of your married estate, finances and property. Hopefully, you should now have a clearer understanding of the legal grounds for divorce, and what you may have to prove in order to start the petition process.
*This content is not designed to constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice we always recommend contacting a qualified legal professional and are happy to provide recommendations*