Guide to the Grounds for Divorce

By November 15, 2017
choosing the right ground for divorce

Information on the grounds for divorce in the UK

If your marriage has broken down and you are considering a divorce, you’ll need to be aware of UK divorce law.

There is only one grounds for divorce and that is the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage, which you must prove by establishing one of the five available ‘facts’ or ‘reasons’ as they are sometimes referred to as.

This guide to the grounds for divorce should give you the knowledge you need in order to make an informed decision as to which ground might be the most suitable for your situation.

Detailed explanation of the grounds for divorce

As we’ve already mentioned, to file for divorce you must establish one of the following 5 grounds for divorce;

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Unreasonable Behaviour
  • 2 years separation with consent
  • 5 years separation – no consent required

Choosing the right ground for divorce is not a decision that should be rushed because it can affect the cost of your divorce as well as how long your divorce procedure could take to finalise.

If you have any questions on the grounds for divorce, call us for free on 01793 384 032.

These explanations of each ground for divorce are in no particular order, so please read through each of them one at a time and understand the importance of choosing the right one for your situation.

Unreasonable behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is the most commonly used ground for divorce in England and Wales and is the only behaviour based reason for divorce available for applicants in the UK.

If you were to choose to use this ground to base the breakdown of your marriage on, the ‘petitioner’ (the person who starts the proceedings) sets out between 3 to 4 allegations against the ‘respondent’ (the person who receives the divorce petition).

The behaviour cited as unreasonable may include references to the excessive use of alcohol or being financially irresponsible.

However, the courts don’t always insist on really severe allegations of unreasonable behaviour in order to grant a divorce, such as physical violence or verbal abuse.

More mild allegations, such as not sleeping in the same bed, spending too much time with friends, having no common interests or wanting a separate social life may well suffice.

Using allegations of a milder nature may also make it easier to agree on a divorce petition with your spouse in advance, which can decrease the length of your divorce process.

For more information on filing a divorce using unreasonable behaviour along with some common examples, read our guide to unreasonable behaviour.


You must prove that your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex and that you find it intolerable to live with your spouse following this act.

If a sexual liaison without actual sexual intercourse has taken place, it’s suggested that unreasonable behaviour ground is used as proving adultery can be difficult and may increase the time it takes to obtain a divorce.

It isn’t essential to name the person involved with the adultery as a correspondent and it’s usually advisable not to do so because it can make the proceedings more complex, hostile and prolonged.

However, if you are filing for divorce in Scotland, you must name the person involved.

Adultery can be used as the basis for a divorce petition, whether you and your spouse are still living together or there has been a separation, however, there are time limits on using this ground for divorce.

Using adultery to get a divorce can be daunting and very emotional, which is why we stress you read our guide to using adultery to file for divorce.

2-year separation with the consent of your spouse

2 years separation with consent can only be used when there is an agreement to the divorce and you have been separated for a period of at least 2 years as the name suggests.

You and your spouse need to have been living apart for at least two years in England and Wales, or one year in Scotland.

If both you and your ex-partner are amicable and wish to divorce without making allegations against each other, then you will need to wait until you have been separated for 2 years in order to file for divorce.

Using this reason for divorce is a quick, easy and amicable way to resolve your divorce as there is no contesting or allegations, the divorce should progress without any hiccups.

If you are living in the same house as your spouse, you may still be able to obtain a divorce using this ground for divorce, but it’s best to speak with a divorce expert to find out first.

5-year separation with no consent required

You and your spouse have been living apart for at least five years in England and Wales, or two years in Scotland, immediately preceding the presentation of the petition (or ‘Initial Writ’ in Scotland). In this instance, your spouse doesn’t need to consent to the divorce.

Using this reason to divorce can come with complications, which is to be expected when you’ve been separated for 5+ years.

Unless you have children with your ex-partner, it’s perfectly normal for couples to completely cut ties and in five years time have had no communication for several years.

This leads to not having an address for your spouse, which makes completing the divorce process slightly more difficult and in most cases does add extra cost and time to the divorce procedure.

Even when no consent is required, your spouse still needs to be given the opportunity to see the divorce papers, which is when you need to prove to the court that you have used all means necessary to locate your spouse.

Do the grounds for divorce affect the financial settlement in any way?

Just because your spouse has displayed unreasonable behaviour or has committed adultery, it does not mean the finances will need to be split to provide a more favourable outcome for the petitioner.

Therefore, the grounds for divorce you choose would rarely affect the way the finances are split and the court will pay particular regard to the welfare and needs of any of the children in the family when a financial agreement has been made and presented to them by way of a consent order.

If there are behaviours which may affect the contact for the children such as physical abuse or alcohol abuse this may affect the agreement on the arrangements for the children on how they are cared for but not in respect of how finances are split.

If the unreasonable behaviour has included your spouses recklessness with finances or the fact that one party has run up a lot of debts then this can be considered in the agreement and if the court are aware that one parties actions have resulted in severe loss to the other party, the agreement can be made in regard to that issue.

However, just because your spouse has been unreasonable or they have committed adultery this will not hold any extra weight for you getting more money from the assets you shared during the marriage.

You should now have all of the information you need in order to feel comfortable choosing the most suitable ground for your divorce, but what are the biggest causes of divorce? Let take a look…

Top 11 Reasons for Divorce in The UK

  1. Adultery
  2. Couples Drifted Apart
  3. Money Problems
  4. Lack of Communication
  5. Abuse
  6. Constant Arguing
  7. Addiction
  8. Different Views on Parenting
  9. Weight Gains
  10. Unrealistic Expectations
  11. Lack of Intimacy

Our list of reasons for divorce is not exhaustive of all the reasons, it’s a snapshot of the top 11 causes of divorce.

Looking at these 11 reasons for divorce, it’s no surprise that unreasonable behaviour is the most commonly used ground for divorce because all 11 fit under the unreasonable behaviour ground.

How To Initiate A Divorce?

The Divorce process for an uncontested divorce is the same regardless of your chosen ground for divorce.

To be able to apply for a divorce you need to file a D8 divorce petition and send it to the courts along with your marriage certificate and your court fee payment or application for fee remission (court fee reduction).

The Divorce Process is split into 4 stages:

  1. File a Divorce Petition
  2. Acknowledgement of Service
  3. Application for Decree Nisi
  4. Application for Decree Absolute

If your divorce is amicable your divorce should take 4-5 months on average from start to finish.


When using Quicke Divorce, we will talk you through all of the options you have available when filing for divorce.

We will explain each different ground for divorce and how each procedure works and then which one might be the most suitable for your situation.

Each divorce services are fixed fee and start from as little as £59 for those looking to obtain a easy and quick divorce.

Visit our website for information or call our friendly divorce experts on 01793 384 032.

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