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Why you can't get a no fault divorce in the UK

If you and your spouse both wish to get a divorce, you might think you should be able to do so without the need to assign ‘blame’. However, in the UK there is no such thing as a ‘no fault’ divorce, meaning when filling out a divorce petition you will need to give reasonable grounds for ending your marriage.

There are 5 acceptable grounds for divorce in the UK. If you fail to provide sufficient grounds your divorce petition can be rejected by a family court, meaning you would need to reapply with additional grounds, which will taken more time and money.

You should therefore discuss with your spouse who will be submitting the petition (you can both petition for divorce simultaneously if you wish) and agree what grounds you will include in the petition. By agreeing this in advance, it can allow the divorce to proceed faster and more smoothly, making the process easier for both of you.

Acceptable grounds for divorce in the UK

The accepted grounds for divorce in the UK are:

  • Adultery – currently defined as sex with someone of the opposite sex.
  • Desertion – where your spouse has left you for at least 2 out of the last 2.5 years without your agreement, without a good reason and to end your relationship.
  • Having lived apart for more than 2 years – if your spouse agrees to the divorce.
  • Having lived apart for more than 5 years – whether your spouse agrees to the divorce or not.
  • Unreasonable behaviour – this covers any behaviour which means you cannot reasonable be expected to live with your spouse anymore e.g. physical violence or drunkenness, as well as issues such as lack of emotional support and not wanting to engage in sexual activity.

What grounds to use for a ‘no fault’ divorce

If you and your spouse are both happy to get divorced, you can either live apart for 2 years first, then use this as the grounds, or use the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

If you want to use unreasonable behaviour as the grounds, you should ideally agree what you will say with your spouse before filing the divorce petition. This can allow you to avoid anything they would not want to admit to, which could cause them to challenge the divorce petition and hold up the divorce.

In general, behaviour such as lack of emotional support and not wanting to have sex tend to be fairly safe examples to use, but it is worth discussing your options together with a solicitor to ensure you put together a sufficiently strong petition that you can both agree to.

Using mediation for a non-confrontational divorce

If you and your spouse agree to get divorced, one of the fast, simplest and least expensive ways to do so is through mediation. This process involves both of you sitting down with a trained, neutral mediator to agree the details of your divorce, including what grounds to use in the divorce petition, what will happen to shared assets, such as your home and any savings, and what arrangements you need to make for any children you have together.

Mediation allows you to avoid the need for court action, which can prevent your divorce from becoming acrimonious, as well as saving time and legal fees. An alternative to mediation is collaborative law, where you both sit down for a ‘round the table’ meeting to negotiate the details of your divorce, each supported by your own lawyer trained in collaborative law. This can be a good option if you have more complicated issues, such as a jointly owned business, to sort out.

At Crisp and Co, our expert divorce solicitors can help make the process of getting divorced as simple, fast and cost-effective as possible while keeping conflict to a minimum. Our trained mediators and collaborative lawyers offer two different routes to a non-confrontational divorce, while we can also represent you effectively in court if required.

To find out more, call us today on 020 3797 4952 or get in touch using the enquiry form below.

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