Grounds for Divorce
You can only divorce if your marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. You will need to prove this to the court by giving the reasons why your marriage has ended. These are known as ‘facts’ for divorce.
When you can 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
Showing your reasons for divorce
The divorce will be quicker and cheaper if you agree the ‘facts’ that you’re going to use When you apply for a divorce, you must show there are good reasons (known as supporting ‘facts’ to show ‘grounds’) for ending your marriage.
If you are the person starting the divorce process (known as the ‘petitioner’) you must decide which ‘facts’ apply to you and you want to use.
The divorce will be quicker and cheaper if you agree the ‘facts’ that you’re going to use.
If they don’t agree with your ‘facts’, your husband or wife can defend the divorce. If this happens, you both might have to go to a court hearing to discuss the reasons for the divorce and settle any disagreements.
There are five types of ‘facts’ that you can use in divorce proceedings.
You can use adultery as a reason for divorce if all of the following apply:
- your husband or wife has had sex with someone else of the opposite sex
- you don’t want to carry on living together
- you decided not to continue living together within six months of the adultery happening or you finding out about it
To prove adultery, you will need to give the court:
- details of the adultery, for example when it happened
- statements from you and your husband or wife
- an admission of adultery from your husband or wife
2. Unreasonable behaviour
If your husband or wife behaves so badly that you can’t carry on living together you can use ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as a reason for divorce.
Your husband or wife could be showing unreasonable behaviour if they:
- are physically violent to you
- are verbally abusive to you, for example through insults or threats
- fail to provide affection or attention
- don’t let you leave the house
- give you reason to believe they are having an affair
You can use ‘desertion’ as a reason for divorce if you can prove that your husband or wife has left you:
- without your agreement
- without a good reason
- for a period of more than two years in the last two and a half years
- with the aim of ‘deserting’ you (trying to end the relationship between you)
4. Living separately for more than two years with agreement on both sides
You can get a divorce if you and your husband or wife have lived apart for more than two years and both agree to divorce.
You can have lived together for up to a total of six months during this time if you have been apart for two years altogether.
Your husband or wife must agree in writing, so make sure you discuss it with them before filing for divorce.
5. Living separately for more than five years
If you and your husband or wife have lived apart for more than five years you can use this as a reason for divorce. If this has happened, you can apply for a divorce without your husband or wife’s agreement.
This will usually be enough to get a divorce. But your husband or wife can object if it will cause them ‘extreme’ difficulties – usually financial.
Starting the divorce process
Once you have decided which supporting fact to use, you can start the divorce process. You do this by filing a ‘divorce petition’ with a divorce court.
Alternatively telephone 0333 2070 601 for further help and assistance.