Grounds for Divorce

In the UK there is only one ground for the divorce - that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, can't be fixed, ever. Within a divorce petition you have to give a fact that proves that the marriage has broken down so irretrievably and you have five facts to choose from. You may find that more than one applies but your petition needs to be based on just one. They are:

1. That your spouse has behaved in such a way that you can't be reasonably expected to continue living with them. 

This covers a pretty broad set of circumstances because it is specificially about what YOU have found unbearable - not what your next door neighbour, mother, spouse thinks - YOU. 

This can be almost anything but there is a sliding scale of unreasonableness. There are some things that we all would consider unreasonable - domestic abuse, having relationships with other men/women - and there other things that may only be unreasonable for you. 

If your spouse has been coming in from work and putting their feet on the coffee table without first taking off their shoes, AND YOU GET UPSET BY THAT, then doing it repeatedly is unreasonable. 

But you're going to need more examples at the shoes-on-the-coffee-table end of the scale than you are at the abuse-and-affairs end. 

2. That your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to continue living with them. 

The usual way to prove adultery is to have your spouse admit it in the divorce papers. If they refuse, you're going to struggle to prove it unless they've had a child by another person. The fact that you can't tolerate living with them may not have anything to do with the adultery, although it often does. 

3. That you have been separated at least 2 years and the other spouse agrees to the divorce. 

They'll need to agree in the official court papers. If they don't return the documentation with that confirmation, you'll need to start all over again.

4. That you have been deserted by the other spouse for at least 2 years. 

This means showing that they suddenly left, unexpectedly and against your wishes, more than 2 years ago. It is rare to rely on this fact. Desertion has a very technical definition and it is generally easier to divorce on one of the other facts. 

5. That you have been separated from your spouse for at least 5 years. 

Their consent is not needed. They can only stop the divorce if they can show that it would cause them financial hardship. It is not common for somebody who has been separated for 5 years to still be financially reliant on their spouse. Sometimes the divorce itself (rather than the separation) would have an impact on their finances. Perhaps they are relying on your pension which could not continue after divorce. 

No matter which fact you rely on, you will need to give further details. If you choose behaviour, you'll need to give examples. Adultery will need to be admitted or proven in some other way and you'll need to confirm that you can't stand to live with them any longer. Separation petitions will need to include the date that you stopped living together.

If you can, agree the fact and the details with your spouse before you issue the petition at court. It can save a lot of arguments and legal fees if you can work out what details you're both happy to rely on.

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