Even the most amicable separation is difficult, because applying for a divorce can be complicated and reaching an agreement about money and children with your ex-partner may seem impossible. We want to make the process easier by giving you key information and resources to complete the process without solicitors.
We have also set up a forum for people to share their experiences so you don't feel like you are alone.
To get a divorce in England or Wales you must have been legally married for at least one year (1) and your permanent home (or the permanent home of your husband or wife) is in the UK.
In addition, you will need to prove that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. There are currently five facts that are recognised by the law to prove this is the case (2). You need to prove only one of these facts is true to get a divorce and provided that your application is not contested by your husband or wife, this can be fairly straightforward to achieve.
Adultery - your husband or wife has had sex with another person of the opposite sex and you have not continued to live together for more than six months after you found out about it. This fact may be difficult to prove, particularly if your partner is objecting to the allegations. Unless you have some kind of evidence or your partner has provided an admission statement, you should consider using the next fact as your reason for a divorce.
Unreasonable behaviour - your husband or wife has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This is the most common fact to use in an application for a divorce. You can state one or more reasons in your application and there is no right or wrong answer. Provided that your reason(s) proves that your marriage has broken down and your partner does not contest to it the court will likely approve the divorce.
For each reason, it is good to state factual information such as dates of incidents when your partner behaved unreasonably, or provide the court with crime reports for domestic violence incidents, and so on.
Desertion - you can apply for a divorce if your husband or wife has left you for a continuous period of at least two years. You must prove that you are living separate lives even if you are living under the same roof, e.g. you do not sleep or eat together; you must also prove that your husband or wife intended to desert you permanently, you did not consent to it and your husband or wife did not have any good reason to desert you.
This fact is not commonly relied on for a divorce because it is generally difficult to prove that one person deserted his or her spouse without their consent.
Two years' separation - you can get a divorce if you and your partner have lived separate lives for two years and they agree to the divorce.
Five years' separation - you can apply for a divorce if you and your partner have lived separately for five years. You do not need your partner's agreement to the divorce to rely on this fact.
There is a six-month breathing period if you want to try and work on your relationship with your partner. This means that you can still apply for a divorce with either of the desertion or separation facts even if you lived together for up to six months during the separation. This includes one period of six months or multiple periods of time that total six months. However, the six months won't count towards the number of years' separation.
(1) It is possible to apply for an annulment or judicial separation within the first year of marriage, however, the procedures and rules are different. These types of applications are uncommon so we have not provided any information on these options on our website. If you think that you have grounds for either one of these options, then please speak to a solicitor.
(2) The Government plans to introduce a no-fault divorce process in the future. This will remove the need to prove one of the five facts and make the process easier. To follow the progress of this new law, please go to the parliament's website here.