What are the reasons for divorce in the UK?
Divorce can be an extremely difficult time for both parties and can also be draining especially when there is a division of assets. Despite the emotional and financial strain that a divorce can cause, divorce is on the rise. According to the Office for National Statistic, in 2014 there were 247,372 marriages however, 111,169 ended in divorce. Further figures released indicate that divorce increased by 5.8% in 2016 in the UK. These figures are quite concerning however, continuing a marriage that is no longer bringing happiness to both parties can be terribly distressing and as such, it is worth outlining the reasons commonly relied upon in the UK in order to begin divorce proceedings in the Family Court.
One of the main points to initially note is that an individual can only petition for a divorce if he/she has been married for at least one year in addition, to the fact that the marriage must also be a legally recognised marriage in the UK.
To successfully file a divorce petition in the Family Court, the petitioner (the spouse filing for divorce) must demonstrate that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to establish that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, the petitioner can rely on any of the 5 following grounds:
- unreasonable behaviour;
- two years separation with consent from the respondent;
- five years separation, no consent required; or
What does each ground for divorce entail?
In order to rely on unreasonable behaviour, which is the most common ground, the petitioner must clearly demonstrate that their spouse has behaved in such an unacceptable manner that he/she cannot be reasonably expected to continue their marriage with their spouse. Unreasonable behaviour can be inclusive of, but not limited to, abusive behaviour, carelessness towards finances or lack of affection and consideration. There may be various examples of unreasonable behaviour and as such, it can at times depend on each case and whether the behaviour was an isolated incident or a regular occurrence. The regularity of a behaviour obviously does not apply to allegations of domestic abuse, whether psychological or physical.
Contact us if you are unsure of whether a certain behaviour constitutes unreasonable behaviour. We have a dedicated team of family law specialists with extensive experience in this area who can guide you through this difficult time in a professional, fast and friendly manner.
If a petitioner is relying on the ground of adultery, he/she must prove that their spouse had sexual intercourse with an individual of the opposite gender which has made it intolerable for the petitioner to continue residing with their spouse. In certain circumstances, an affair may not have included sexual intercourse and as such, adultery cannot be relied upon. The petitioner can instead rely on unreasonable behaviour. It is vital to note that in order to rely on the ground of adultery, the petitioner must file for divorce within six months of becoming aware of the adultery, unless the adultery has continued. A petitioner is not able to rely on their own adultery to petition for divorce, this will be an invalid petition.
A further ground is two years separation which in order to be relied upon, requires the petitioner to establish that they have been separated from their spouse for a minimum of two years and their spouse also agrees with the petition for divorce. It is not possible to rely on this ground if the other spouse disagrees with the petition for divorce.
Similar to the above reason for divorce, is the five years separation which requires the petitioner to have lived separately from their spouse for a minimum of five years. However, the difference in this instance is that the other spouse is not required to agree to the divorce. This means that a petition for divorce can be filed without the other spouse’s agreement or consent.
The final and least relied upon ground for divorce is desertion which requires a spouse to have abandoned the petitioner for a minimum but continuous period of two years. This ground is usually avoided as it can be very difficult to successfully prove as the petitioner must establish their spouse deserted them with the intention of divorcing.
What is the next step?
Once an individual has been able to identify the most suitable ground for divorce, he/she can file a divorce petition at the Family Court by completing form D8 or alternatively, this can be done online. There is a fee of £550 to apply for a divorce and the petitioner is required to also provide their original marriage certificate.
If the application is correct, a copy of the application and an acknowledgement of service form will be sent to the other party who would be referred to as the respondent. The acknowledgement of service form is usually sent in order to provide the other party with an opportunity to defend the petition however, the form must be returned within eight days.
The next step would be to apply for a decree nisi which is a legal document confirming that there are no reasons as to why the divorce should not be finalised. In circumstances where the respondent does not agree with the divorce, the couple will need to attend a court hearing.
The final step is to obtain a decree absolute however, this document can only be applied for six weeks and one day after the date that the decree nisi was issued. A decree absolute basically confirms that the divorce has been finalised, it is a legal document confirming the divorce and thus allowing both parties to remarry in the future.