The five grounds for divorce – and why you should tread carefully

By Peter Jones, founder

The New Year is often a time when many people who feel unhappy and unfilled contemplate making life changing decisions about their careers and their marriages.

When it comes to the latter, securing a divorce has never been easier.

With ‘fragile petitioners’ now able to report how their spouse’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’ affected them – and with witnesses no longer needed  to corroborate often very thin reasons, e.g. swearing – there are probably no marriages where the occasional behaviour of one or both spouses might not be grounds for ending their union.

While we are not quite at the point where marriage licences have a tear-off strip which is stamped at a Post Office to end the partnership, we urge you not to rush into a hasty decision.

So what are the five grounds for divorce in the UK?

Adultery. Your spouse’s affair has left you unable to live with them. If they admit it, the process is usually quick and smooth, although it is vital that you both take proper advice and formally agree a settlement. Do bear in mind that you can’t give adultery as a reason for divorce if you continued to live with your spouse for six months after discovering the betrayal.

Unreasonable behaviour. This includes bullying, insults or threats, physical violence, drunkenness/drug use or refusing to split housekeeping costs – even if one spouse can afford to share them. In a nutshell, your spouse has behaved so badly that you’re unable to live with them. In any application, the judge will ask how the behaviour affected the person who suffered it – taking into account their individual fragility and sensitivity.

Desertion. In these cases your spouse has ended the relationship by leaving you for a continuous period of two years without your agreement or ‘good reason’. Desertion is increasingly rare, because it is difficult to prove and is often filed under the grounds of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

Two years apart, by agreement. This means you can be granted a divorce after a two-year separation. It can be an effective and friendly method and I often urge people to wait this long, if they have already been apart for 18 months or so. In this case your spouse must agree in writing and can withdraw consent right up to the final hearing.

Five years’ separation (no consent required). Living apart for this period or longer is usually a sufficient period to be granted a divorce, with or without your spouse’s agreement – unless they can show extreme financial hardship, which is very rare.

After going through all the alternatives you reach the decision that divorce is your only viable option, then take action and plan your future and the future of your children. It is also vital that you look after yourself at such a stressful time.

Work with a respected family law firm who will help you reach a final settlement that is fair for both spouses – and prevents each claiming against the other in future years.

If you have any comments, queries or concerns on divorce related issues, leave a comment below, call the team at Jones Myers on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce.

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