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What are the Grounds for Divorce in England?

In England, to get a divorce you have to show that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. You cannot state ‘irreconcilable differences’ as the reason, or that you have simply drifted apart. A specialist Family Lawyer can help you to decide which is the most appropriate legal grounds for divorce.

We offer a free consultation to all new clients so please contact us to speak to one of our experienced divorce solicitors.

To obtain a divorce you must show one of the following five reasons:


Your spouse must have had sex with a member of the opposite sex. They can have admitted this or you must be able to provide enough circumstantial evidence to back up the claim.

You cannot ask for a divorce because of your own adultery. If this is the reason for the divorce then your spouse must be the one to petition for the divorce, otherwise a different reason must be found.

Unreasonable behaviour

This is the most common reason used to petition for a divorce as it can cover a whole array of behaviours and circumstances.

You have to show that your partner’s behaviour is free consultationso unreasonable that you cannot live with them. Examples of this may include, financial irresponsibility, excessive drinking, abuse, lack of communication or lack of intimacy.

The Courts do not require the allegations to be particularly serious. The main thing is to show that you cannot be expected to continue living with the behaviour in question. In some cases, to facilitate an uncontested divorce, it can be beneficial to use mild allegations in order to reach agreement with your spouse.

Two years separation - with consent from your spouse to the divorce

If you have been living apart from your spouse for 2 years and you both agree to get a divorce.

It must be clear that the marriage was effectively at an end before the 2 year period of separation.

Five years separation – consent for divorce not required from your spouse

You do not need consent for the divorce from your spouse if you have been living apart for 5 years.


If you spouse has left you, against your will, for a period of 2 years or more then you may petition on the basis of desertion.

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