Under UK law you can obtain a divorce if you have been married for at least a year and your relationship has permanently broken down. Your marriage must be legally recognised in the UK.
What are the Grounds for Divorce?
Currently in the UK the grounds for divorce are:
- The parties have lived apart for two years (consent of the other party is required).
- The parties have lived apart for five years (consent of the other party is not required).
- Unreasonable behaviour - this may include violence, excessive drinking, neglect, etc.
- Desertion by the other party.
An ongoing objection to the existing grounds for divorce is that there is an inherent requirement for one party to be at fault. Unreasonable behaviour and adultery are the two most commonly cited grounds.
Currently, no-fault divorces do not exist under UK law which is unusual as many other jurisdictions allow for them. No-fault regimes reflect the reality that often neither party will be at fault at the end of a marriage.
In a no-fault system, parties are not pitted against each other. Neither party has to prove the other party's behaviour is unreasonable or satisfy one of the other grounds in order to justify a divorce; an irrevocable breakdown of the relationship is enough.
The fault based regime stems from marriage and divorce being associated with social status. Historically if a couple divorced one party was deemed “innocent” and maintained their social status upon divorcing from their partner.
Changes to the UK Divorce Regime
Recently there have been calls for change in relation to no-fault divorce in the UK. Senior Family Law Judges have called for reform, noting that the time for allocating blame for the failure of a marriage has now passed.
Should no-fault divorces become legal in the UK, couples could be granted a quick and legal separation without having to apportion blame. It is hoped that this would help lessen the stress of what can be an anxious time for couples.
Evidence suggests support for the introduction of no-fault divorce among practitioners. A no-fault basis for divorce would mean that parties would have less incentive to air deeply personal or embarrassing grievances in order to apportion blame. Dredging through past behaviour looking for evidence of unreasonable behaviour can produce unnecessary animosity in already stressful circumstances.
Unfortunately, for the time being, divorcing couples in the UK still need to cite one of the existing grounds before a decree absolute will be granted but there are ways to minimise the negative repercussions; for more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com by telephone on 0207 583 3434.
In most cases we can arrange an initial free consultation.