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Want a divorce but don’t know where to start?

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Want a divorce but don’t know where to start?

Here are some of the factors you should consider before applying for a divorce.

When Can I Get a Divorce In England & Wales?

You can get a divorce in England & Wales if all the following are true:

  • You’ve been married for over a year
  • Your relationship has permanently broken down
  • Your marriage is legally recognised in England & Wales (including same-sex marriage)
  • Either you or your husband/wife is habitually resident in England & Wales

In some circumstances a divorce may not be suitable or applicable. Depending on the circumstances of your case, it may be more appropriate to annual your marriage or legally separate. An annulment or legal separation can be applied for within the first year of marriage.

Can I Get a Divorce If My Spouse’s Whereabouts Are Unknown?

You can still get a divorce in England & Wales if your husband or wife is missing. The divorce process may take longer than normal where the whereabouts of the Respondent are unknown. However, our divorce lawyers will help you with the procedures to follow and guide you through the process.

Grounds For Divorce

You can apply for a divorce on the grounds that your marriage has broken down irretrievably and cannot be saved. This means that either one or both of you feel that you cannot stay married to each other. Either of you may apply to the divorce court in England and Wales for the marriage to be dissolved if you have been married for one year at least and that one of you has been a resident here for the year before your divorce petition is made. The application to the divorce court is called a Petition and the spouse who files (sends) the Petition is called the Petitioner. The other spouse is then called the Respondent.

To file for your divorce, you’ll need to give one or more of the following 5 reasons due to which your marriage has broken down irretrievably:


Adultery means your husband or wife had sexual intercourse with someone else of the opposite sex (committed adultery) and you find it intolerable to live with him or her. In most cases, you prove adultery by your husband or wife admitting adultery. If not, you will need to speak to your divorce solicitor as to how you can prove adultery of your spouse.

If you carry on living with your husband or wife for more than 6 months after you find out about the adultery, you will generally not be able to use this as a valid reason for divorce unless the adultery is continuing.

Unreasonable Behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour means that your husband or wife has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her and because of such unreasonable behaviour of your spouse your marriage has broken down irretrievably. This covers all sorts of bad behaviour. You need to think about the main things that have made your husband or wife difficult to live with. These are summed up in the divorce petition in a few short paragraphs. You cannot rely on single event of unreasonable behaviour that took place more than 6 months before you file your divorce petition, if you have lived together since then.

The examples of unreasonable behaviour could include:

  • verbal abuse, such as insults or threats;
  • physical violence;
  • refusing to pay towards shared living expenses;
  • drunkenness or drug-taking.

Desertion of the Petitioner by The Respondent

The petitioner can apply for divorce on the grounds that the Respondent deserted the petitioner more than 2 years ago and the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Desertion means leaving your husband or wife without his or her agreement and without good reason.

2 Years Separation and Respondent Consenting to Divorce

You can also apply for divorce on the grounds that you have lived separately for more than two years and your husband or wife (the respondent to the divorce petition) consents to the divorce. This is often called a ‘no-fault’ divorce.

You can have periods of living together as long as they do not add up to more than 6 months and you have been apart for at least 2 years altogether. Your husband or wife must agree in writing. It may be possible for you to show that you’ve been separated while living in the same home as your wife or husband if you’re not living together as a couple e.g., you sleep and eat apart.

5 Years Separation

You can apply for divorce on the grounds that you have lived separately for more than 5 years and your marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Your husband or wife who is a Respondent to the divorce petition does not need to agree to this. The Respondent cannot defend the divorce petition on this ground but he/she can ask the court not to grant the final decree because of a major financial or other type of hardship.

Need further advice?

To discuss your particular circumstances, call 0121 268 3208 or email us at to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers.

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