Family law

UK Divorce Law Explained

There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the law when it comes to divorce. Here we tell you what you need to know if you are considering divorce or are about to get divorced.

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What are the legal grounds for divorce in the UK?

There are a lot of misconceptions around what constitutes 'grounds for divorce' in the UK. There is actually only one which is 'irretrievable breakdown' of the marriage.

To prove "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage, there are 5 ways in which you can show this but it can only be proven in one of these 5 ways. Contrary to popular belief, irreconcilable differences is not a ground for divorce.

What are the five reasons I can give for a divorce?

There is only one 'grounds for divorce' in the UK, which is 'irretrievable breakdown', but this needs to be proven by one or more of these five reasons:

Adultery: The law is very specific about what constitutes adultery. To use this as a reason to file for divorce, you must be able to prove that your spouse has had a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex.

You should be aware that you cannot cite adultery in a divorce petition if you continued to live as a couple with your spouse for six months or more after discovering their infidelity. It's also important to note that in the eyes of the law, sexual relations with someone of the same gender doesn't constitute adultery.

Unreasonable behaviour:

The test for unreasonable behaviour is that you find it intolerable to live with your spouse because of his/her behaviour. Examples of such behaviour can be mild such as your spouse's refusal to help you with housework to the other extreme of physical abuse.

Desertion: You can cite desertion as a reason for divorce to be granted when your spouse has been absent for more than two years in the last two and a half years, without good reason, without your agreement or simply with the deliberate intention of bringing your relationship to an end

Two years of separation: You can use this reason when you have lived separate lives for two years or more. Normally this will mean living at separate addresses, but it is still possible to be 'separated' while living under the same roof, as long as you sleep in separate rooms and maintain separate lives in all other respects  This enables you to seek a divorce if both of you agree to it.

Five years of separation: Almost all the same rules as above apply if you are seeking a divorce for the reason of five years' separation. The only significant difference is that your spouse doesn't have to agree to a divorce for it to be granted by a judge.

What is a legal separation?

There is no recognized concept of a legal separation in UK law – you are either married and living together or married but living separately. Often, people live separately but do not divorce for the following reasons:

• Have religious objections to divorce

• Have been married or in a Civil Partnership for less than a year

• Want to take time for consideration before ending the marriage or civil partnership

Crucially, you don't have to prove 'irretrievable breakdown' in order to live separately. It's also important to note that you cannot remarry while legally separated. If you wish to commit to another relationship, you will need to get a divorce first, or ensure that your civil partnership has been legally dissolved.

Why choose Slater and Gordon's divorce lawyers?

While the facts about UK law we have shared here should help you to decide if you are likely to be granted a divorce, we firmly believe that legal advice is essential to anyone on the brink of divorce.

Our family law experts have all the experience you need to help you get through this difficult process.

Call us now on 0330 107 6495 or contact us online today and we will call you.

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