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Divorce Day: an annual event by John Bolch

It’s now becoming an annual event: the first day back at work after the New Year is ‘Divorce Day’, the day when more people instruct solicitors to commence divorce proceedings than any other day. The theory is that having to put up with their spouses for a bad family Christmas is the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’, encouraging people to make a fresh start in the New Year.

To be honest, in twenty-five years practising I can’t say I ever particularly noticed a flood of new divorce business at the start of the year, but some solicitors will swear that it is a real phenomenon. Either way, I thought it would be timely to briefly recap the law on divorce.

Before I do so, however, I would recommend that anyone contemplating divorce to stop and think before they rush off to see their solicitors. Once divorce proceedings have been initiated, there is rarely a way back. If you think there is a possibility of saving the marriage, then consider marriage guidance.

If you are sure you want to proceed, then there is only one ground for divorce: that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This must be proved by showing one or more of five things:

  • That your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live together. (Note that you cannot rely on your spouse’s adultery if you lived together for more than six months after you found out about it. You also cannot rely upon your own adultery).
  • That your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live together (“unreasonable behaviour”).
  • That your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of two years or more.
  • That you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years and your spouse agrees to the divorce.
  • That you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years.

If you can’t prove one of these things, then you can’t get divorced. Having said that, it would be a rare marriage indeed where the parties had behaved so impeccably throughout that one couldn’t say that the other had behaved unreasonably at some point.

If you are in any doubt as to whether you have grounds for divorce, you should consult a specialist solicitor.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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  1. Luke says:

    “If you are in any doubt as to whether you have grounds for divorce”

    🙂 This is quite funny really – in reality if you want a divorce you go for ‘unreasonable behaviour’ and then you just have to be eloquent enough for this to stick – and it’s not difficult – your lawyer will be able to advise but EVERYBODY can get a divorce if they want one.

  2. Marilyn Stowe says:

    Hi John
    I agree that up to the recession hitting we were always quiet in January. From 08/09 things started to change and the figures for consultations in Jan started to increase. But this was at the same time as the media started to ratchet up this D day thing (and I don’t know exactly when it is:- yesterday, today, Monday?) it seems to be going crazy no doubt because there isn’t much real news about.
    Last January we had more new client enquiries than ever before, very substantial numbers but fewer clients actually instituting proceedings than in the months you would expect: Spring and Autumn.
    So I think this is part recession driven and part self fulfilling prophecy, but it doesn’t cause big spikes in the figures that matter namely the divorce stats.

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