The Grounds for Divorce

There is currently a strong case for no fault divorce to be introduced into UK law. With many believing that a couple should be able to get divorced on the grounds that a relationship has failed, rather than having to hold either person accountable. However, in the meantime there is only one ground to request a divorce. That is that it must be proven that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This can be proven by any of the following 5 grounds stated below.  

Ground A:  Adultery and Intolerability

Both the elements of “adultery” and “Intolerability” have to be proven here.  

Adultery: Only conduct between the respondent and a person of the opposite sex can constitute adultery. This is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between two persons of the opposite sex, one or both of whom is married, but not to each other. This is therefore not a ground for divorce in same sex marriages. 

Intolerability: This has to be proven in addition to adultery, however it does not have to be as a consequence to adultery.  

Effect of co-habitation: The petitioner is not entitled to rely on the adultery if the parties live together for a period exceeding 6 months after the date, that they discovered the adultery.  

Ground B: Behaviour

This refers to behaviour which the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with. This is an objective test that will allow the court to make a judgement about the respondent’s behaviour and the effect that is has on that particular petitioner. Behaviour may relate to aspects such as, physical violence, verbal abuse, and cruelty.  

Ground C: Desertion

For this ground to be relied upon the following 6 elements, must be satisfied by your partner:  

  • There must be a separation; 
  • There must be an intention to desert; 
  • The petitioner must not consent or agree to the separation; 
  • The respondent must not have a just cause for leaving; 
  • The desertion must be continuous; 
  • The desertion must immediately precede the presentation of the petition at the court; 

Ground Fact D: Two years separation with consent

There are two elements that have to be fulfilled. First that there is at least a two year period of separation and that secondly the respondent must consent to this. A physical separation does not wholly constitute living apart, there must also be a mental element; that the parties must never intend to live with the spouse again. 

Effects of cohabitation: A period not exceeding 6 months will be ignored, however the parties will have had to live apart for a period of at least 2 years.  

Ground E: Five years separation  

For this ground to be applicable the parties to the marriage must have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years, immediately preceding the petition. It is irrelevant here whether the respondent consents to the application for divorce.  

The only defence is for the respondent to deny the separation or to prove grave hardship. For the defence of grave hardship to be applicable, the respondent has to prove that the divorcee would result in grave financial or other hardship, which would mean that in all the circumstances it would be wrong to dissolve the marriage.  

You can contact Vanessa Gibson at

BTMK Solicitors, 19 Clifftown Road, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 1AB

Office Hours – 01702 238546

24/7 – 03300 585 222

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