What are the Grounds for Divorce in the UK?

A man signing divorce papers

A marriage is much more than the union of a loving couple; it’s a legally-binding contract. Therefore, the end of a marriage is more complicated than a breakup as it’s a legal process. The grounds to get a divorce are a specific list of rules and scenarios that much be achieved before you will be able to end your marriage.

Although the divorce rate in the UK is lower than it has been since the peak of 2003, it’s safe to say that there’s still a lot of people untying the knot. Every divorce is different. Some are relatively hassle-free and quick, whereas others require multiple court hearings to come to a conclusive end. But before the divorce proceedings can even begin, the law states that a couple needs to fit specific criteria.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the grounds for divorce in the UK to give you a clear idea of whether you’re able to apply or not. To successfully apply, you will need to prove that your marriage has broken down. To do so you will need to present evidence that one of the following instances has occurred.

Grounds for Divorce in the UK

There is only one ground for divorce- that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This must be evidenced by one of the following facts:

Adultery: The UK government recognises adultery in regards to marriage and divorce as having sex with someone of the opposite sex. So, if you can prove that your partner has been unfaithful, you have a valid reason to file for divorce.

It should be noted that you won’t be allowed to give adultery as a reason for divorce if you have been living together for six months after you initially found out about it.

Unreasonable Behaviour: This is the most common fact pleaded for divorce. Whilst it is possible to rely on a single very serious incident, it is more common to set out a course of conduct which has caused the marriage to irretrievably breakdown. Commonly these include things such as one party having an inappropriate relationship with another person (does not need to be an affair), verbal abuse, drug alcohol abuse, staying out all night, and derogatory behaviour.   

Desertion: If your partner has decided to pack up their stuff and leave, it can be very frustrating if you want to end the marriage. However, desertion is an acceptable reason to file for divorce. You can do so successfully if your former spouse has left without warning, without providing a good reason, or just to end the relationship. If that happens, you can start the divorce process. Also, if they have left you for at least 2 years out of the last 2.5 years, you can claim desertion if you have lived together for a maximum of 6 months during this time.

Separation 2 years (with consent) or 5 years (without consent): If you have been separated for 2 years and both agree to the divorce, the Court will accept that as one of the facts to rely upon to show the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This makes the whole process very simple and straightforward. You can still be living under the same roof but must show that you have been living completely separate lives.

In the case where you have been separated for at least 5 years, you can apply for divorce without the consent of the other party.

Do any of the grounds for divorce apply to your marital situation? If so, KMJ Solicitors can help you advise and guide you through the entire divorce process to ensure the best possible resolution for you and your family. Get in touch today to schedule your FREE no-obligation consultation.

Clayton spent five years working in family law with a firm in Australia before moving to the UK in 1999. He deals with all aspects of family law, specialising in all family matters, offshore trusts, company structures, international law, prenuptial agreements, high net worth cases and cohabitation law.