There is currently no option for a ‘no fault’ divorce in England and Wales, meaning that if you want to end your marriage, you will have to give your reasons for doing so in the divorce petition.
To get divorced, you will need to show that your marriage has completely broken down and there is no chance of reconciliation. Making sure you choose the right reasons to cite in your divorce petition for why this is the case will be essential to help your divorce progress as quickly and smoothly as possible, while minimising the potential for unnecessary conflict with your spouse.
What reasons can you give for divorce?
There are 5 reasons you can cite on your divorce petition for the breakdown of your marriage:
Adultery – If your spouse has been unfaithful with someone else of the opposite sex (same sex infidelity is not currently classed as adultery under English law and instead falls under ‘unreasonable behaviour’).
Unreasonable behaviour – If your spouse has behaved in a way where you can no longer reasonably be expected to live with them. This can include things such as spending too much time at work or out with friends, not providing emotional support and failing to contribute financially, as well as more serious issues, such as alcoholism or domestic abuse.
Desertion – Where your spouse has left you without your agreement, without good reason and with the intention to end your relationship for at least 2 years out of the last 2.5 years.
Separation for at least 2 years – If your spouse agrees to the divorce.
Separation for 5 years or more – Whether your spouse agrees to the divorce or not.
Making sure the reasons you give are sufficient to satisfy a judge
Unreasonable behaviour is by far the most commonly used reason for divorce. It is generally the best option where you want to avoid the risk of your spouse defending the divorce, which they may be more inclined to do if, for example, you accuse them of adultery.
When choosing examples of your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour to cite in your divorce petition, you need to make sure that they will be considered sufficient by the judge reviewing the petition.
You are required to show that your relationship has irretrievably broken down. So, for example, saying that your spouse insists on going out with their friends every Saturday night would likely not be sufficient, but saying that they go out every night and spend little time with you would be more likely to meet the required standard.
In reality, your petition will usually need to cite several different types of unreasonable behaviour to provide strong evidence of the breakdown of your marriage. It is therefore well worth consulting with an experienced divorce solicitor when starting divorce proceedings.
Avoiding unnecessary conflict with your spouse over your divorce petition
The other reason you need to be careful when choosing the reasons for your divorce is that, as suggested above, if you use something your spouse might object to, you increase the risk of their deciding to defend the divorce.
A defended divorce usually takes a lot longer, costs a lot more and is likely to be a lot more stressful, so it is usually best to avoid this situation if at all possible.
If you and your spouse have agreed to divorce, it can be worth discussing the petition with them to make sure there is nothing in it that they will object to before you send it off. The advice of an experienced divorce solicitor can also be invaluable, helping to provide a cool-headed perspective on what is likely to generate conflict and alternatives that can help your divorce progress more smoothly.
Crisp & Co’s divorce solicitors in London and the South East have decades of experience handling even the most complicated and contentious divorces. We can provide the expert guidance you need to ensure your divorce petition is created in the right way to allow your divorce to go ahead swiftly and smoothly.
To find out more, speak to one of our expert divorce lawyers now by calling 020 3797 4952 or use the enquiry form below to request a call back.