• Hasan Hadi

Key points to consider before you begin divorce proceedings

Key points to consider before you begin divorce proceedings

No one goes into a marriage expecting it to fail, yet the sad truth is that two out of five couples end up getting divorced.

For many people it’s the most stressful experience of their lives, something they only do reluctantly after months or even years of soul searching. There are so many things to consider before making such a life-changing decision.

Has my marriage really broken down?

Most people will have already made up their minds about this before they start thinking about divorce but if not, it may be worth re-evaluating your relationship, possibly with a counsellor or mediator.

Assuming you are convinced there is no way you can salvage your marriage, it is still worth clarifying the reasons in your mind as you will need to provide those reasons when you proceed towards divorce.

Can I get a divorce?

To begin proceedings, you will need to meet all the following requirements:

  • You’ve been married for at least 12 months

  • the relationship has irretrievably broken down

  • your marriage is legally recognised in the UK

  • England or Wales is your permanent home, or the permanent home of your spouse, or either of you have a connection with England or Wales (this is a complex area of law that would need assessment if neither of you live in England or Wales)

What grounds for divorce can I use?

As mentioned above, you’ll need to prove that your marriage has broken down and cannot be saved. This could be for one or more of the following reasons, sometimes referred to as ‘facts’:


Your spouse had sexual intercourse with someone else of the opposite sex and so committed adultery. However, you can’t use this as a reason if you lived together as a couple for more than six months after you found out about it.

Unreasonable behaviour

Your spouse has behaved in such a way that it would be unreasonable to ask you to continue to live with them. Examples of such behaviour could include:

  • physical violence

  • verbal abuse, such as insults or threats

  • drunkenness or drug-taking

  • refusing to pay towards shared living expenses.


Your spouse has left you for at least two years before you bring divorce proceedings.

You can still claim desertion if you have lived together for up to six months during this period, but that will not count towards the two years.

You’ve been separated for at least two years

You can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for at least two years and you both agree to it. However, your spouse must agree in writing.

It may be possible for you to show that you’ve been separated while living in the same home as your wife or husband as long as you’re not living together as a couple, for example if you sleep and eat apart.

You’ve been separated for at least 5 years

You can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for at least 5 years, even if your husband or wife disagrees.

Potential changes over the next few years

These reasons could be subject to change over the next few years because of concerns about how the system can be misused.

It’s thought that many people are wrongly citing unreasonable behaviour so they can avoid having to wait for two years before they can divorce. This ‘blame game’ as it has become known can cause unnecessary suffering for the targeted spouse.

The government has announced it will change the system but hasn’t said when it will do so. It means that in the meantime, divorcing couples will need to work within the existing framework.

If you would like more information or advice about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of family law please contact our expert legal team on 0208 004 0065, by email at hello@southgate.co.uk or using the form below.

The contents of this article is general information only. The information in this article is not legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should obtain independent expert advice from qualified solicitors such as those within our firm.

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