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The only ground for divorce in England and Wales is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. It needs to be demonstrated that a relationship has reached the point where it can no longer be saved before a divorce will be allowed. You will be required to prove one of the following ‘facts’ in support of your divorce:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Two years’ separation without consent
  5. Five years’ separation (with or without consent)

According to the laws of England and Wales, there are specific conditions that apply to each of the above. For this reason, it is always advisable to seek the advice of a qualified divorce solicitor before taking any action – this ensures you have a legal reason for divorce prior to strating proceedings.

  • What qualifies as adultery?

    This is very specific indeed and can be difficult to prove. Taking this route can sometimes be tempting if your spouse has indeed committed adultery. However there are a number of important factors and misconceptions to be aware of, which our guide ‘Is Adultery and Infidelity: Grounds for Divorce?’, examines further.


  • What is unreasonable behaviour?

    This means that your partner has behaved in such a way that you can no longer be reasonably expected to continue living with them. It can cover a whole range of situations from relatively minor behaviour to verbal abuse, controlling behaviour, domestic violence and illegal drug use.

    This is actually the most common reason cited in divorce petitions as it covers a broader spectrum of possibilities. Any infidelity that does not constitute adultery (as mentioned above) may be relied upon to demonstrate unreasonable behaviour.

  • What counts as desertion?

    In order to use desertion to demonstrate the end of a marriage, the offending spouse must have done the following:

    • Left without a just cause to do so
    • Left without your agreement or consent
    • Left with the intention of deserting their spouse
    • Left for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the presentation of the petition
  • We no longer live together. Is that enough for a divorce?

    It is possible to obtain a divorce based on separation. If you have been living apart for more than two years you are eligible to bring your marriage to an end but your spouse must give their consent for the divorce to proceed.

    If you have been apart for more than five years, your spouse’s permission is not required. However, if you divorce on this basis you must be aware that if your spouse manages to prove grave hardship as a consequence of the divorce, the court can make an order that you remain married. It is essential to obtain legal advice if you are considering a divorce relying on this ‘fact’.

  • What are the most common reasons for a divorce?

    Here are the ones our lawyers hear the most:

    • Addiction issues (alcohol, drugs or gambling)
    • Suspicion of affairs (To cite adultery you need to prove that your spouse has had sex with a member of the opposite sex) or inappropriate relationships with other people.
    • Interference from in-laws and a lack of support from the spouse
    • Not helping with the children or running the home
    • Sex – not enough, too much of or loss of interest
    • Money issues
  • What are some of the more unusual reasons for divorce?
    • Unusual sexual practices/ fetishes
    • Spying and tracking partner
    • Spouse not completing DIY- no bathroom door for 2 years
    • Being bullied into going on theme park rides
    • Not buying a Christmas present
    • Going to the gym too much
    • Turning vegan
    • Addicted to cycling/running etc
  • Are there any trends in the reasons for divorce?

    Camilla Burton-Baddeley, a Senior Solicitor from the Stowe Altrincham office explains:

    “We are definitely seeing a trend in the more imaginative use of unreasonable behaviour as a reason for divorce.

    Previously it was money problems or drinking that would be cited frequently but it can be anything that an individual considers to be unreasonable, even if others do not.”

    The number of divorces being granted on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour is steadily increasing. In 2017, unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing with 52% of wives and 37% of husbands petitioning on these grounds.

    Camilla explains:

     “Most people are not prepared to wait two years to get divorced, which is the closest option we have for a no-fault divorce. They have made the decision to move on with their lives and citing unreasonable behaviour means they can start the process quickly.

    Until we have the option of no-fault divorce, I believe we will continue to see the definition of unreasonable behaviour stretched even further.”

Are there any other grounds?

No. In order to divorce in England and Wales, your application must prove one of the ‘facts’ set out above. If you can use them to demonstrate that your marriage has broken down beyond repair, your divorce will be granted.

If you are unsure about any of the above, do not hesitate to get in touch. Stowe Family Law can support you through the process and address any questions you may still have over divorce law and procedure.

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