In 2010 there were just under 120,000 divorces in the United Kingdom while just over double that figure (241,000) got married. A number of celebrity couples in America have divorced this year citing ‘irreconcilable differences’ however this is not an option in the United Kingdom. Many couples will approach a divorce solicitor about getting a divorce based on irreconcilable differences, but under the law in the United Kingdom this is not possible. There are a number of conditions that need to be followed in order to gain a divorce in the United Kingdom. You need to fulfil certain specifications in order to qualify for a divorce and you need to be able to provide facts to show grounds for divorce.
In the United Kingdom you can only be eligible to apply for a divorce if you fulfil certain conditions. You and your spouse must have been married for at least a year (very different to several other countries where a marriage can last a matter of days!). The marriage must also be legally recognised in the United Kingdom in order to have a divorce there. There are also a number of rules about how long you have lived in the country that need to be adhered to. Finally you must provide proof that your marriage has ‘irretrievably’ broken down. This proof must be in the form of facts about your marriage. These facts make up the grounds for divorce. In the UK there are five different grounds for divorce.
The most common type of grounds for divorce is ‘unreasonable behaviour’ with the majority of divorces citing this reason for the break-down of their marriage. Unreasonable behaviour is classified as where you can no longer tolerate living and being married to your spouse as a result of their behaviour. Unreasonable behaviour covers a number of extreme cases, for example physical violence, verbal abuse, excessive drinking or not letting you leave the house. Unreasonable behaviour, however, covers a spectrum of actions ranging from the mild to the extreme. You can cite unreasonable behaviour if your spouse is financially extravagant or if they fail to provide affection or attention. As there is no option for ‘irreconcilable differences’, many milder allegations will be accepted under ‘unreasonable behaviour’. These could include a lack of common interests, pursuing separate social lives or devoting too much time to their career. As unreasonable behaviour covers such a wide range of allegations, it comes to no surprise that it is the most popular type of grounds for divorce.
The second most commonly used type of grounds for divorce is ‘adultery’. In order to use this type of grounds for divorce a number of conditions need to apply. Firstly, and most obviously, your spouse needs to have committed adultery with someone else of the opposite sex. You also need to have decided not to continue living together and this decision needs to have happened within six months of the adultery taking place or of you finding out about it. Once you have decided upon adultery as your grounds for divorce you will need to provide details and evidence to the court. This evidence will include details about the adultery, when it took place, statements from you and your spouse and an admission of adultery from your spouse. You will need to remember that no more than six months must have passed between the adultery and the divorce petition being filed; otherwise the grounds of adultery will not be applicable.
In order to apply for the three other types of grounds for divorce, a certain amount of time must have passed. In order to use the grounds of ‘desertion’ you will need to be able to show that your spouse has left you for a period of more than two years in the last two and a half years. They must also have left you without good reason and without your agreement. This option is less popular than adultery or unreasonable behaviour and has actually been removed as grounds for divorce in Scotland. Alternately in the United Kingdom you can use living separately as grounds for divorce. You can get a divorce if you and your spouse have lived separately for more than two years. Both parties, the husband and the wife, must agree to divorce and your spouse must agree in writing. If you have lived apart for more than five years you can also use this as grounds for divorce, however, in this case you do not need your spouse’s agreement in order to proceed.
The grounds for divorce in the United Kingdom then are unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion, living separately for 2+ years and living separately for 5+ years. Your marriage will also need to fill a number of requirements in order to qualify for a divorce. Divorce proceedings can be particularly complicated, especially when the parties involved cannot agree. It can be particularly helpful, and is usually highly recommended, to engage the services of a solicitor who specialises in Family Law. They can advise you on how to proceed and deal with many of the more complex aspects of obtaining a divorce.