The Grounds for Divorce in England & Wales

A common question Family Solicitors get asked is what are the grounds for a divorce. Essentially there is only one answer to this which is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

There are 5 reasons for divorce that commonly get mixed up with grounds for divorce. The court will want to establish which reasons have lead to the marriage breaking down which is recorded on The Petition. In divorce proceedings, the person asking for a divorce is called the Petitioner and the person who is being divorced is called the Respondent. The Petition is the legal document that sets out the reasons for the divorce and the procedure is relatively straightforward.

5 Reasons For Divorce

When granting a Petition for a divorce, the Court needs to be satisfied that one or more of the following reasons, or “facts”, are present:

  1. Adultery: That the Respondent has committed adultery and the Petitioner finds it intolerable to continue living with him/her;
  2. Unreasonable Behaviour: That the Respondent has behaved in such a way that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her;
  3. Desertion: That the Respondent has deserted the Petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
  4. 2 Years Separation (with consent): That both parties have lived apart for a continuous period of two years (which immediately precedes the presentation of the petition) and that the Respondent consents to the divorce being granted;
  5. 5 Years Separation (without consent): And/or, that the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years preceding the presentation of the petition.

Under new rules introduced in 2011 to govern practices and procedures in family law proceedings, the overriding objective of the Court is to deal with cases fairly. Additionally, the Family Law Protocol provides for a commitment to resolve a dispute in a non-confrontational and constructive way, and encourages agreements between parties.

Before the start of proceedings, the Petitioner’s solicitors should provide the Respondent’s solicitors (or Respondent where unrepresented) with the fact or facts on which the Petition is to be based and the particulars, with a view to coming to an agreement. Once the divorce procedure is underway, it will usually take about five to six months before everything becomes final. During this period, it is important for discussions to take place to resolve any outstanding problems there may be concerning children and/or finances.

Couples considering divorce may also want to consider mediation or collaborative family law. Mediation is a process where a neutral mediator assists parties in a family breakdown and encourages couples to explore issues such as finance and property to then reach decisions together. Collaborative law is a process in which the solicitors and their clients agree in writing to reach a settlement without court involvement other than when processing the divorce papers and converting any agreement reached into a consent order.

Catherine Rochelle is a specialist family solicitor at Nelsons. If you need advice on divorce or general family matters, please contact Catherine and she will be happy to discuss your circumstances in more detail and give you information about the services that Nelsons’ family law solicitors can provide.