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Divorce - The Law

There is only one ground for divorce/dissolution and that is that the marriage/civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. The person who starts the divorce proceedings is known as ‘the petitioner’ and their spouse/civil partner is called ‘the respondent’. To satisfy the court that there has been an irretrievable breakdown the petitioner must prove one of the following five facts:

Lonely man looking at the ocean.
  1. The respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent. This “fact” is not available to civil partners who must instead rely on the adultery as a “fact” of unreasonable behavior under “b” below.
  2. The respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent.
  3. The respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the start of the divorce.
  4. You have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the start of the divorce and the respondent consents to a decree being granted.
  5. You have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately before the start of the divorce.

Most divorces are based on facts (a) ‘adultery’ or (b) ‘behaviour’. ‘Adultery’ is an act of sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. To be able to rely on this in the divorce the adultery must have happened in the six months before separation or at any time after separation. There is no need to name the person with whom the adultery took place or indeed to involve them in the court proceedings.

The test for ‘behaviour’ is subjective and it does not need to consist of extensive violence, drug or alcohol addiction or other extreme behaviour. A combination of less obvious behaviour can be sufficient. Often issues like working too much (or not working enough), showing too much (or too little) affection, combined with a number of other similar factors are used.

Woman with husband after argument.


Mediation reduces conflict. When you attend a mediation session the grounds of divorce will be discussed and you will resolve the issue of who starts the divorce process and on what “fact” the divorce proceeds reducing conflict. Your mediator can supply examples of “facts” that can reduce conflict should you require them. We suggest that the person in the place of “the petitioner” agrees with the other person what the “facts” for the divorce are to be and allows “the respondent” to draft the divorce petition. A fee for the issue of a divorce petition is charged by the court service currently £410. This fee cannot be avoided should you choose to divorce.