Do I have grounds for Divorce?

By Sally Irving Trainee Solicitor

Under the law of England and Wales, there is only one ground for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. Most think that this alone is enough to make them eligible for a divorce – it’s not.

Evidence needs to be provided to the Court to show that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and this is done by proving one of five facts:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years separation with consent
  • Five years separation without consent

England and Wales still operate a fault-based divorce system, so unless a couple have been separated for a period in excess of two years, the only way to get a divorce fairly swiftly is by alleging fault of the other person, that is on the basis of either adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

Unfortunately, the law as it stands does not recognise that there are those couples who have simply fallen out of love or grown apart and do not want to wait around for two years before getting divorced.  Whilst there has been some discussion of a move towards a no-fault based divorce system, no changes to legislation have been made as of yet.

This means for those wanting to get divorced immediately, if there has been no adultery, the only option is unreasonable behaviour.

Alleging unreasonable behaviour can be unsettling for some.  After all, it is not particularly pleasant having to list a number of instances where your partner has acted unreasonably or, more to the point, for the other person to have to read these things about themselves.

However, whilst sufficient evidence of unreasonable behaviour has to be given to satisfy the Court, the examples of behaviour do not have to be extreme and in most cases it is possible for the parties to agree in advance the unreasonable behaviour allegations.  Furthermore, the information is only seen by the parties, their solicitors and the Court – it is not published in the newspaper for the whole world to read.  Keeping this is mind often helps the parties focus on the end goal and to ultimately begin moving on with their lives.

If you are considering divorce and are wondering if you have grounds to do so, please get in touch with Sally for some initial advice on 01228 516666 or click here to send her an email.

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