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Divorce Advice – Can I legally get divorced?

This article is part of Astle Paterson’s Divorce Advice series. For more guides like this, see our latest news and blogs.

A common misconception is that there is more than one ground for divorce. There is in fact only one ground for divorce in England and Wales; irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This is set out in section 1(1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

However, to show the Court that a marriage has irretrievably broken down, one of five circumstances needs to be proven.

These are:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Two years’ separation (with the consent of the other spouse), or
  5. Five years’ separation (where there is no such consent required)

These are specified in section 1(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Find out more about what these circumstances mean in our Understanding grounds for divorce article.

If a spouse proves just one of these circumstances to be true, there is an automatic presumption that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

The spouse against whom the divorce petition has been filed is known as the respondent. It is possible for a respondent to challenge the divorce petition. This is done by filing an answer to the divorce petition that denies that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.  However, such defended divorce proceedings are rare. Usually, as divorce proceedings proceed undefended, a Court will take what is put down in a divorce petition at face value. There will be another blog article coming soon to discuss whether you should consider defending against divorce proceedings.

See our Divorce & Family services  or  Contact our Divorce & Family team directly

If you have any questions, or need help on divorce or separation matters, Astle Paterson are on your side. Get in touch here.

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