If you are thinking about starting divorce proceedings you may have read that English divorce law is changing. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to wait before you start divorce proceedings or that it is in your best interests to do so. In this blog, Manchester divorce solicitor, Robin Charrot, looks at the current five grounds for divorce.

Manchester and Cheshire divorce solicitors

Evolve Family Law can help you with all aspects of family law from separation to divorce proceedingschild custody and contact arrangements and representation in financial settlements. For help with your family and private client law needs call Evolve Family Law on 0345 222 8 222 or complete our online enquiry form.

Evolve Family Law offices are located in Whitefield, North Manchester and Holmes Chapel, Cheshire but we also offer remote meetings by telephone appointment or video call.

The 5 grounds for divorce

Strictly speaking, a divorce solicitor will tell you that there is actually only one ground for divorce in England and Wales, namely that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. However, you have to evidence the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage under current divorce law by proving one of five facts. 

The five facts are:

  • Adultery or
  • Unreasonable behaviour or
  • Two years separation and your husband or wife agrees to the divorce or
  • Desertion or
  • Five years separation – your husband or wife does not have to agree to the divorce if you have been separated for five years or more.

How do you prove you have the grounds for a divorce?

Many people are embarrassed at the thought of starting divorce proceedings and having to prove something like adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Equally, if you are on the receiving end of a divorce petition it isn’t nice to think that you have been accused of unreasonable behaviour or adultery. You may also worry about the effect of the divorce proceedings on your financial settlement or the childcare arrangements.

Divorce solicitors say that proving that you have the grounds for divorce is normally not as complicated or as difficult as you may envisage. Gone are the days when you had to send a private investigator to a hotel to prove adultery. If you want to start divorce proceedings based on adultery then all you need to say in the divorce petition is that your husband or wife has committed adultery with a person whose identity you prefer not to reveal and that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. The respondent to the divorce petition just has to confirm that adultery took place, without the need to go into further details.

Importantly, if you get divorced on the basis of adultery or unreasonable behaviour the basis for the divorce proceedings is only ever relevant in any child arrangement order application or divorce financial settlement proceedings in very rare circumstances. For example, if divorce proceedings are started on unreasonable behaviour and one of the allegations is that the respondent to the divorce petition physically assaulted the child. This allegation would be relevant in any child custody case. However, just because an allegation is contained in the divorce petition that you don’t agree to, it doesn’t mean that you have to defend the divorce proceedings provided that you are in agreement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

When are divorce proceedings contested?

As it is possible to agree to get divorced without accepting all the allegations of unreasonable behaviour or without going into a lot of detail about the adultery, most divorce proceedings are not contested. After all, it doesn’t make sense to most people to challenge divorce proceedings if they accept that their marriage has irretrievably broken down and understand that the contents of the divorce petition won’t affect the financial settlement or the childcare arrangements.

Why is it best to get divorce legal advice?

As it is actually easier to get divorced under current law than many people think, divorce solicitors advise that it is best to take specialist legal advice so that:

  • You don’t assume that you should not start divorce proceedings now and instead wait until you can start a no-fault divorce when the new law comes into force
  • You protect yourself, if necessary, by starting divorce proceedings straight away. For example, if you fear that your husband or wife is hiding money from you or transferring assets to other family members or you are worried that your spouse is spending to excess or is at risk of bankruptcy
  • You don’t assume that you need to contest divorce proceedings based on adultery or unreasonable behaviour because the petition is very unlikely to affect either the financial settlement or child care arrangements. In addition, you can preserve your right to challenge any false allegation in the financial settlement or child arrangement order court proceedings
  • You understand your divorce options as, for example, even if your husband or wife has committed adultery you may not be able to start divorce proceedings on that basis if you lived together as a couple for six months or more after they committed adultery and you were made aware the adultery. Sometimes your divorce options may surprise you as you can get divorced on the basis of two years separation if you have lived together in the same family home for two years provided that you have lived ‘separate and apart’ within the same household and your husband or wife consents to a divorce
  • You protect yourself, if necessary, by either not starting divorce proceedings straight away or deferring applying for the decree absolute of divorce
  • You understand the impact of the divorce proceedings and pronouncement of your decree absolute. For example, the impact of your separation and divorce on your immigration status if you are in the UK on a family visa or the effect of your divorce on your tax status and the tax treatment of the transfer of assets between yourself and your former husband or wife.

Most divorce solicitors say that it isn’t just navigating the divorce process that is important but also understanding how your divorce fits in with any financial settlement or childcare arrangement that you either agree or ask the court to determine.

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Manchester and Cheshire divorce solicitors

The friendly team of specialist divorce solicitors at Evolve Family Law can help you with your separation and divorce proceedings, child custody and contact and your financial settlement. For advice on your family and private client law needs call Evolve Family Law on 0345 222 8 222 or complete our online enquiry form.

The Evolve Family Law offices are located in Whitefield, North Manchester and Holmes Chapel, Cheshire but we also offer remote meetings by appointment by video call or telephone.

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