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Divorce 101: Grounds For Divorce - England & Wales (#5)

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No. 5 - Grounds For Divorce (England & Wales)

To end a marriage in England & Wales, you must establish it has broken down irretrievably.  You prove this by fitting your circumstances into one of five 'facts':

  • Adultery: This means your spouse has had full sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex.  You must have proof of adultery or the respondent must admit to it.  You cannot use this ground if the respondent has had a sexual relationship short of intercourse, or if they have had a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex. If this is the case, then you must rely on the ground of unreasonable behaviour (see below).  If you go on living together for more than six months after you have found out about the adultery you may not be able to use this 'fact' because you also have to show the court that you find it 'intolerable' to go on living together.
  • Unreasonable behaviour: This means your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her.  It can include persistent violence, insults, coldness, disgusting personal hygiene, inadequate sex - and more besides.

  • Desertion for a period of at least two years: This means that your partner has left you against your will, and you have been living apart for at least two years.  As you can get a divorce if you have been living part for two years and you both agree, this 'fact' is not used very often.

  • Two years separation with consent: Even if you both agree to divorce, one person still has to be the petitioner; you can't ask the court for a divorce together.  During the period of separation you can have had up to six months trying to live together again.  This doesn't count towards the two years, however.

  • Five years separation without consent: If you can't get your spouse to agree to a divorce and you don't fit into the other 'facts' you may have to wait until you have been apart for five years before you can petition for a divorce.  Your partner may still be able to block it by trying to prove to the court that the divorce could cause gross financial or other hardship, but this rarely happens.

** Legal information & advice **

You can obtain further information about divorce on .

Depending on your circumstances, however, you may want to speak with a .  You can be in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.

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