11 July 2013
What are acceptable grounds for a divorce?
The news that Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson are to Divorce may not come as a surprise. The fact however, if reports are correct, that it is Mr Saatchi and not Nigella who has initiated the divorce process may well be.
According to the reports in the press yesterday, Mr Saatchi has confirmed that he has made the decision to end his 10-year marriage after feeling he had been a “disappointment” to his wife and let her down. He is also reported as saying that the couple had increasingly drifted apart over the last year and that this had contributed to his decision.
For divorce lawyers however, the question is whether Mr Saatchi will be in a position to commence divorce proceedings at the present time, regardless of his intentions, given that neither of the stated reasons for his decision are grounds on which he could issue divorce proceedings.
Whilst unreasonable behaviour is one of 5 possible grounds on which divorce proceedings can be based, it is not possible for a person to rely on their own behaviour, only that of the other party in the marriage. Mr Saatchi could not therefore issue a petition for divorce based on feeling his recent behaviour has been a disappointment to his wife, or let her down. To use Unreasonable Behaviour, he would need to base his petition on Miss Lawson’s behaviour instead, which no doubt could prove controversial in the circumstances.
In addition, as we have previously explained in this blog, there is no such thing as “irreconcilable differences” as a basis for divorce and again, the fact the couple have drifted apart would not be grounds on which a divorce could be issued at present. The only option when wanting to use the fact that a couple have drifted apart is 2 years separation, meaning that the couple would have to separate, and then live apart for 2 years, before each providing their consent to a divorce.
It may be that Miss Lawson issues a petition based on Mr Saatchi’s behaviour instead. It is perfectly possible for couples to agree between them how, when and on what basis they will enter into divorce proceedings, and indeed doing so can often help to reduce the stress and tension at an inevitably sad and difficult time. Miss Lawson is said to be anxious to protect her 2 Children from the fall-out of the split and hopefully, despite the fact their marriage is reportedly over, the couple will be able to co-operate in bringing it to an end legally.
By Family Law Solicitor Cara Nuttall.