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Life Events: Dealing with Divorce

Getting a divorce

In order to get a divorce you need to have been married for more than twelve months. You will also need to show that the marriage has broken down.

To prove that the marriage has broken down you will need to show one of the following:


You do not need to know the identity of the person that your spouse has committed adultery with and you do not need to name them on the Divorce Petition. However, if your spouse denies the adultery then you may be requested to prove it. This can be very difficult and for this reason divorce petitions based on this ground do not always succeed.

Unreasonable Behaviour

You will be asked to give examples in the divorce petition about your spouse's unreasonable behaviour. You must also state why this has made it difficult for you to continue living with them. You may use adultery as an example and you would not need to prove the adultery. This may be a better option than relying on adultery as the only ground.

2 Years Desertion

You will need to supply the date of when your spouse left you and show that you have not heard from your partner since that date. You cannot start divorce proceedings until your spouse has been left for two years.

2 Years Separation

In order to use this ground for divorce your spouse must agree to the divorce. You will need to put the date of the separation on the divorce petition and state briefly the reason for the separation. If you do not know the exact date of the separation you can give an approximate date as long as it can be clearly shown that two years have passed.

5 Years Separation

You do not need your spouse's consent to divorce on this ground. This ground is therefore useful if you know that you will have difficulty getting your spouse's consent. You will need to give details of the date of the separation and brief reasons why you separated.

Getting a marriage annulled

Under certain circumstances you may be able to have your marriage annulled. You must apply to annul the marriage within a reasonable period of time, in some cases this will be three years. There is no requirement to have been married for twelve months.

Examples of when you may seek an annulment of your marriage are:

Finding Legal Advice

You can get free legal and benefit advice from the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

Help with legal fees

The legal help scheme helps people with a low income to get free legal advice and assistance. You can get help from the legal help scheme with an undefended divorce, maintenance or disputes over children.

The legal help scheme covers three hours work by a solicitor, however, the solicitor can apply for an extension to finish the work under the scheme.

To be eligible for the scheme you must have a gross monthly income of under £2,000 and capital of under £3,000. If you have a partner, his/her income and capital may be taken into consideration.

If you are claiming Income Support of Income-based Jobseekers Allowance you will be eligible for the scheme. However, if you are not on either of these benefits you may still be eligible for help. Your eligibility will depend on your disposable income, that is the amount of income you have left after deductions have been made for tax, national insurance and deductions for any dependents.

Arranging a divorce yourself

It is possible to do your own divorce without needing to consult a solicitor. However, it should be noted that a do it yourself divorce should only be undertaken if both parties are in agreement about all matters.

The forms can be obtained from your local county court. You will also be able to obtain guidance notes for filling in the forms.

Mediation Services

Mediation offers separating and divorcing couples the opportunity to resolve matters regarding the future by negotiating with each other with the help of a trained mediator. The mediator will ensure that both parties get a fair and equal say.

The sort of things that you may discuss in mediation are:

Mediation will not help you to get back together. Couples go to mediation when they have reached the decision that the relationship has irretrievably broken down and they need help to focus on the future.

Children and divorce

The Action for Children (external link) is a charity that gives advice and help for children and parents.

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