When applying for a UK divorce, the applicant must give one of five pre-specified reasons for the divorce. Referred to by the court as ‘facts’, these are given by the person starting divorce proceedings, who is known as the petitioner, when filling out what is known as a divorce petition form. These facts are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, and living separately for either 2 or 5 years, depending on whether or not both parties consent to the divorce.
The first and one of the most commonly submitted facts in divorce cases is adultery, which may be cited if your husband or wife has had sex with a member of the opposite sex during the time you were married to them. However, this may not be cited as a reason for the divorce if you lived with your partner for 6 months or longer after having found out about it – if this is the case you will be seen to have condoned their actions. Due to the specified legal definition of adultery, it also may not be given as a ground for divorce if your partner has sex with a member of the same sex, even if you are in a same-sex marriage.
Unreasonable behaviour may be cited as a fact for divorce if your husband or wife has behaved in such a manner that you cannot bear to live with them; this could include but is not limited to:
- Physical violence or threat of physical violence
- Frequent drunkenness or drug-taking
- Verbal abuse
- Refusal to do housekeeping
Desertion as a fact for divorce is less commonly seen, but will be taken as a valid reason in the circumstance that your husband or wife has left you without either your agreement or good reason, or for more than 2 out of the past 2 and a half years. Due to desertion being especially difficult to prove and reasonably easy to dispute, this fact is not often used. Often these cases are given as examples of unreasonable behaviour, with the petitioner claiming that it is unreasonable behaviour to leave in such a manner or instead citing 2 years separation.
2 Years Separation (With Consent)
In the event that a husband and wife have lived apart for 2 or more years and both consent to the divorce, this may be used as a fact for divorce. Reasons for the separation may vary, and often if couples may give a different reason in an attempt to get a divorce quickly, rather than wait two years. In cases of divorce where the fact cited is 2 years separation, both parties must give their written consent to the divorce taking place. If one party refuses, the petitioner must wait another 3 years until the couple have been living apart for 5 years.
5 Years Separation (Without Consent)
Somewhat of a last resort, the petitioner may cite the fact that they have lived apart from their spouse for 5 or more years, and this is usually only used if other facts for divorce do not apply. Consent of the other spouse, known as the ‘respondent’, is not needed when using 5 years separation as the basis for a divorce petition.