What do I have to do to get a divorce?
To prove that you have grounds for a divorce, you will have to demonstrate to the court how your marriage has broken down irretrievably. In other words, you must show that one or both of you feel that you cannot continue to be married to one another. If you have been married for at least one year, either partner can apply to have the marriage dissolved. This application is called the Divorce Petition and the partner who sends the Petition is called the Petitioner. The other partner is called the Respondent. During the process of the application, the Petitioner will have to prove one of the following grounds for divorce:
Adultery is a common ground for divorce
Adultery is one of the most common grounds for divorce in the UK. It is defined for this purpose as your partner having sexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex to them. Same-sex partners cannot use adultery as grounds for divorce in the UK due to the definition of adultery for this purpose. If you have lived with your partner for 6 months or more after you found out about the adultery, you cannot use it as grounds for divorce unless the adultery is continuing.
Unreasonable behaviour is another ground for divorce
Unreasonable behaviour means that your partner has behaved in such a way that you cannot be reasonably be expected to live with him or her. This can mean any number of behaviours such as physical, verbal, emotional or financial abuse; drunkenness or drug taking. The petition will ask for the main reason, the first instance, the most serious instance and the most recent instance. As with adultery, if you have continued to live with your partner for 6 months or more after the first instance you cannot use it as grounds for divorce unless the behaviour has continued.
Desertion for a minimum of two years
Desertion for this purpose means that one partner has left the other without their agreement and with no acceptable reason for doing so. To be used for grounds for divorce, the period of desertion must be 2 years or longer.
My partner has left me – Two years’ separation from your partner
If you have been separated from your partner for 2 years or more and they agree to a divorce. This is sometimes called a ‘no-fault’ divorce and does not require any proof of wrongdoing by either partner. For this to apply, you can have periods of living together as long as those periods do not add up to six months or longer and there has been a period of at least 2 years living separately.
Five years’ separation from your partner
If you have been separated from your partner for 5 years or longer. This differs from the two years’ separation in that your partner does not have to agree to this and cannot defend this petition. They can, however, ask that the court not grant the final decree due to a major hardship, e.g. Major financial difficulties.
How long does a divorce take to go through?
The length of a divorce will vary depending on the court and the details and complexity of each individual case. Cases can run for a considerable amount of time and cause a lot of stress if you are not practised in dealing with complex family issues. It is often best to have an experienced family solicitor assist in divorces where you foresee any kind of dispute with your partner, complex financial issues or if children are involved and their care arrangements are disputed. Having an experienced family solicitor will ease the stress and worry of dealing with often complex legal situations yourself and sometimes emotional and distressing disputes with your partner.