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Divorce procedure

Separating is never easy,  it’s important that you understand the general procedures involved.

What are the grounds for starting divorce proceedings?

There is actually only one “ground” for divorce: that the marriage has completely broken down and any reconciliation is impossible. However, in an undefended divorce this will have to be proven to the court by giving written evidence and the person starting the divorce process (the petitioner) will need to establish one or more of the following five facts:

  • the respondent (the other spouse) has committed adultery (this can include sexual relationships entered into after separation)
  • the respondent has behaved unreasonably (the ‘seriousness’ of this behaviour is less important than the effect it has had on the petitioner)
  • the respondent has deserted the petitioner for two years or more (this is very rarely used as grounds for starting divorce proceedings)
  • the couple have separated and have been living apart for two years, and the other spouse gives consent to start divorce procedures
  • the petitioner has lived apart from the respondent for five years or more (in this case, no consent is needed from the respondent)

If there are financial proceedings or proceedings relating to children, these will run separately (but usually concurrently).

It is important to note that there are restrictions governing the divorce process in the law of England and Wales. Notably, you cannot begin the divorce procedure within the first year of marriage.


Learn more from our partners, Mills & Reeve, about how the process works >

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This information is provided by our expert partners Mills & Reeve who handle all of our family law matters. Find out more >