020 3372 5125 Email us today
Enquire today

Ending a marriage or civil partnership[1] is never easy.  Many divorce applicants are at the lowest ebb of their life emotionally; with feelings of fear, vulnerability, and anger dominating their waking and sleeping hours.  As a family law Solicitor who has helped many people through the divorce process, one thing I know for sure is the better informed my client is regarding how divorce law works in England and Wales, the more confident they are of the decisions they make.  This leads to a feeling of optimism regarding the future; it is true what they say – there is life, not to mention happiness, after divorce.

This article provides a jargon-free explanation of how divorce works in England and Wales (divorce law in Scotland differs), however, this should not be taken as legal advice.  Remember, even if you and your spouse are on good terms, to achieve an outcome which represents your best interests, and those of your children, you should always seek the advice of a Solicitor.  Unfortunately, the family courts are full of people who, had they had legal advice, probably would not be there.  A reputable family lawyer will do everything possible to assist you and your spouse to agree on arrangements for your children and reach a financial settlement amicably between yourselves, using alternative dispute resolution methods such as round-table negotiation and/or mediation.  Such actions usually de-escalate disputes before they develop into costly and stressful court proceedings.

The grounds for divorce

In England and Wales, there is only one ground for divorce, and that is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, due to:

  • adultery
  • unreasonable behaviour
  • desertion
  • two years’ separation (with the consent of the other party)
  • five years’ separation (no consent required)

To get a divorce in England and Wales you must have been married for at least one year and see England or Wales as your permanent home or be domiciled in one of these countries if you live overseas.

Let’s look at the reasons for the marriage irretrievably breaking down in more detail.


To qualify as adultery, sexual intercourse must have taken place.  Sexual behaviour (such as oral sex) or emotional infidelity, although devastating to you, cannot be cited as adultery (although it can be cited as an example of unreasonable behaviour).  In addition, you need to apply for divorce within six months of discovering the infidelity.

Unreasonable behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour was formally known as ‘cruelty’.  It can include a variety of behaviours, including physical, sexual, economic, and/or mental abuse, chronic unfaithfulness, and abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.  If your spouse disputes some of the examples of unreasonable behaviour you list on the petition, they can be changed.


At present, the government has asked for consultation in preparation to overhaul divorce law in England and Wales.  The fact that desertion is still grounds for divorce shows how archaic the law in this area is.  Designed to protect women who were left by their husbands (often without economic means), desertion is defined as a spouse leaving you without your consent or a reason.  You must have been separated for two years to cite desertion.

Two years’ separation

If you have been living separately for two years, you can divorce, but only with the consent of your spouse.

Five years’ separation

If you have been living apart for five years, you can divorce your spouse, even if they refuse to agree.

The divorce process

The basic process for obtaining a divorce is as follows:

File the divorce petition – the petition is a document required to be filed in court asking permission to divorce.  The person filing the petition is known as the Petitioner, and their spouse is referred to as the Respondent.  The reasons why the relationship has irretrievably broken down must be stated in the petition.

Acknowledgement of service – most divorce petitions are now handled in Divorce Centres, located throughout the country.  Your application will be checked by staff, and if everything is correct, you will receive a stamped copy of your application and a case number.  Your spouse will receive a copy also.

Apply for a decree nisi – If your spouse does not defend the divorce (defended divorces are exceptionally rare) then you will receive a decree nisi, which confirms there is no good reason why the divorce should not be granted.

Decree absolute – After six weeks and one day, you will be able to apply for the decree absolute, which will legally end your marriage.

Please note that the above is a simplified version of the process and even the most amicable divorce will take around six months to complete.  Disagreements over the financial settlement and arrangements for children often arise.  This is where your Solicitor’s advice becomes invaluable.  Not only can they help you resolve disputes in a non-confrontational and respectful manner, but they will also provide opinions on the choices being offered to you which are free from emotion and focused solely on your long-term best interests.

Contact our divorce lawyers in london today

Getting divorced is one of life’s most stressful events, and one that no one who enters a marriage ever thinks will happen to them.  But with sound legal advice and representation, the process can be made less painful, perhaps leaving you a stronger person at the end.

Our specialist family Solicitors are able to advise and support you through any family law matter.  Call us on 020 7841 1081 or contact us online.

[1] The procedure for dissolving a civil partnership is almost identical to a divorce, with the exception of adultery being a fact which can be cited as a reason the relationship has irretrievably broken down.

Please call us on 020 3372 5125 or get an online consultation

    For legal advice
    call us today
    020 3372 5125
    Or complete our online enquiry form to make an appointment

      What Our Clients
      Say About Us
      Dealing with Rakhi was more like having In house counsel than hiring a law firm
      So Rakhi Singal of RVS has just handled my divorce, it was a very complex case and I came to Rakhi at the very last minute on a friend’s recommendation. My case was a mess and I stood to lose everything.

      Dealing with Rakhi was more like having In-House counsel than hiring a law firm, she does not approach her clients as a cash machine like many law firms do, she works with you to manage and minimise your costs and de-escalate conflict rather than throw wood on the fire.

      She took a huge personal interest in my case, she was always available on the phone, very quick to respond to emails and is very honest and trustworthy.

      My ex had huge spending power and used a team of high profile solicitors against me, Rakhi literally saved me from complete ruin and helped me get a very fair deal with me spending 6 times less than my ex on legal fees.

      Thank you, my new family and I will be forever grateful!!!!
      What Our Clients
      Say About Us
      Rakhi’s passion for her profession supersedes the norm
      On dealing with a very stressful and emotional situation involving my young child. I was personally directed to Rakhi Singal. From the very outset of my situation, Rakhi identified the immediate difficulties I faced and offered me a sympathetic and rational approach to my situation, ensuring that she had a full understanding of my issues and concerns. Rakhi’s approach to my case was monumental and customary to my needs and that of my child, which was a fundamental point for me.

      The communication and support I received in and outside of court was nothing short of extraordinary. Rakhi’s passion for her profession supersedes the norm and is clearly demonstrated through her results.
      What Our Clients
      Say About Us
      Really impressed with Rakhi’s dedication to our case
      Could not be more pleased with the results!

      I approached RVS solicitors as they were highly recommended and now I completely understand why. Soon as I contacted Rakhi I knew I wanted to use her, she was so professional and easy to get along with. I was faced with clients who were refusing the pay invoices, Rakhi immediately reassured me that she was able to help me and recoup these costs. She dealt with the whole process very professionally.

      Really impressed with Rakhi’s dedication to our case and her knowledge and experience on dealing with the case. She communicated with us throughout the process, providing me with regular updates. Thank you so much, I cannot vouch for her work enough and RAW Invites are happy for you to continue to act for all their matters in the future.
      What Our Clients
      Say About Us
      Very detailed advice, friendly and approachable
      Excellent service for my wife's spousal visa from Lusine: very detailed advice, friendly and approachable. Also flexible in contact by email and provided an excellent cover letter.
      What Our Clients
      Say About Us
      She is professional, intelligent, hard worker and cheerful!
      I highly recommend Dr. Lusine Navasardyan, as she is professional, intelligent, hard worker and cheerful, she helped us from the beginning of our case until the very end, when she prepared a strong bundle with over 385 pages, which helped us get a successful victory in our Asylum case . I strongly recommend her as I really appreciate all the professional work that she has done . Many thanks to her.
      What Our Clients
      Say About Us
      She has been very professional and a reliable person
      Dr. Lusine has been working on my case. She has been very professional and a reliable person. She was always attending to my queries and she has always been very friendly throughout my case.
      What Our Clients
      Say About Us
      She is very professional while creating a friendly and comforting relationship with her clients
      I am very happy with the level and quality of service I got from Dr. Lusine Navasardyan. She is very professional while creating a friendly and comforting relationship with her clients. The service from Lusine was professional,efficient and well organised. Lusine worked extremely hard at resolving my all issues while getting the best result.