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Grounds for Divorce

While grounds for divorce is only down to one thing – the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage – there are 5 facts which can be used as a basis for divorce proceedings. When a marriage breaks down and is irreparable you need to know your rights and options. Sound legal advice and an understanding solicitor can help you with this.

If you want to talk to someone about legally separating from your spouse, call our legal team on 0800 298 9690.

In the UK you need to have been married for at least one year and you need to establish one of the following facts in order to enter into divorce proceedings:


Adultery can sometimes be difficult to prove as either the spouse must admit that they have committed adultery by having sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex, or you must have sufficient circumstantial evidence of the adultery and that you find it intolerable to live with your spouse.

However it is not possible to start divorce proceedings based upon your own adultery; your spouse must start divorce proceedings.

If a sexual liaison has taken place which does not include sexual intercourse, then it may be better to file for divorce citing unreasonable behaviour instead.

Often when giving the details of adultery you may want to give the name of the other person involved as a co-respondent. You need to be aware that naming the co-respondent could escalate the divorce proceedings by making it more acrimonious, complicated and drawn out. If you wish to name the other person we advise that you seek legal advice first.

If you and your spouse have lived together for more than 6 months since you found out about the adultery you cannot use adultery as a reason to divorce, unless the adultery is still happening.

Unreasonable Behaviour

The grounds of unreasonable behaviour can often be a mixture between subjective and objective reasoning. A test is needed to assess whether your spouse has behaved in a way that you cannot personally be reasonably expected to live with them.

When assessing unreasonable behaviour it will take into account the whole circumstances and the personalities of both parties to test whether a right thinking person would come to the conclusion of unreasonable behaviour.

The range of behaviour stated as unreasonable can be anything from domestic violence to failing to support a career or hobby, but the examples given in the case must be strong enough for a judge to grant a divorce. Examples given as unreasonable behaviour can give rise to conflict between parties so it is important to have a skilled solicitor who can strike a balance between giving a sound reason for divorce and keeping the proceedings as amicable as possible.

Two Years’ Separation with Consent and Five Years’ Separation

If your grounds for divorce is two years separation with consent or five years separation you must have been living separately for either two or five years.

If you have lived separately and apart for two years and your spouse agrees to the divorce then you can then petition for divorce. If you have lived separate and apart for five years you do not need the agreement of your spouse to petition for divorce.

Normally the term “separate and apart” means living in separate households.

However you can be considered to live separate and apart if the normal relationship of husband and wife has ended, for example, if you sleep in separate rooms, do not eat together, do not share finances etc.


In very rare circumstances desertion can be used as a reason to divorce.

In order to prove that your spouse has deserted you, you need to show that cohabitation has ceased. The cohabitation must have been ended by your spouse and without your consent, and your spouse must not have had a reasonable cause to have left. You must also have been in this situation for a continuous time of at least two years before divorce can be started.

It is often easier to base proceedings on two years’ separation with consent or unreasonable behaviour.

If you would like to speak to our legal team about divorce call 0800 298 9690 or fill in the Get in Touch form to the right of this screen. 


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