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3 Divorce and Separation

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1. Introduction

2. Where to start

3. Separation

4. Divorce

To get a divorce you have to show the court that the marriage has broken down 'irretrievably' (that is, that one or both of you feel that you cannot stay married to each other). You do this by proving one of five 'facts'.

A. Your husband or wife has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with him or her.

Generally you prove adultery by your husband or wife admitting it. If he or she refuses to co-operate, you will need to speak to your solicitor about what to do next. If you carry on living with your husband or wife for more than six months after you find out about the adultery, you will generally not be able to use this as your 'fact'.

B. Your husband or wife has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her.

This covers all sorts of bad behaviour. You need to think about the main things that have made your husband or wife difficult to live with. These are summed up in the petition in a few short paragraphs. As with adultery, you cannot rely on single events that took place more than six months before you file your petition, if you have lived together for more than six months since then.

C. Your husband or wife has deserted you for a period of more than two years.

Desertion means leaving your husband or wife without his or her agreement, and without a good reason.

D. You have lived separately for more than two years and your husband or wife consents to the divorce.

This is often called 'no-fault' divorce. You can have had periods of living together as long as they do not add up to more than six months and you have been apart for at least two years altogether.

E. You have lived separately for more than five years.

Your husband or wife does not need to agree to this. They cannot defend this petition, but they can ask the court not to grant the final decree because of major financial or other type of hardship.

Facts A and B are the most common because with all the others you need to have lived apart for more than two years. If you want to file a petition based on your husband or wife's behaviour or adultery, it makes sense to discuss this with him or her first. If you do this, you can make sure that the petition will not be defended, and this will save you legal costs.

Do I have to go to court?
If the divorce is undefended (that is, you both agree to it), there is no need for either of you to go to court. The case can all be dealt with on paper.

How long does it take?
Most divorces take six to eight months from the time of filing the petition to the time when the 'Decree Absolute' is granted. The time can vary a lot depending how quickly you and your husband or wife deal with the paperwork. However, sorting out the money can take much longer than this. You can get your Decree Absolute and be free to remarry, but still not have sorted out a financial settlement.

5. If you have children

6. Supporting your children

7. Money and property

8. Making arrangements should you die

9. Dealing with emergencies

10. Terms used in divorce and family law

11. Further Help

12. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Imogen Clout, a solicitor specialising in family law.

Leaflet version: May 2019

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