Reasons for Divorce

Contrary to popular belief, there is only one ground for divorce under section 1 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and it is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There is equivalent provision under the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

In order to 'prove' that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, the person who initiates the divorce (called the petitioner) must satisfy the court of one of five 'facts' laid out in the legislation.  In almost all cases, the basis for the divorce or dissolution of the civil partnership will have no impact on other matters such as the financial settlement or arrangements for any children affected by the separation. The actual divorce or dissolution is, for all but a tiny minority, a paper exercise with documents passing between the court, the petitioner and the respondent (the name given to the other party) and/or their solicitors.

The five facts:

The respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent

The respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent (known commonly as 'unreasonable behaviour')

The respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition (known as ‘desertion’)

The parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the respondent consents to a decree being granted (known as 'two years' separation and consent')

The parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition (known as 'five years' separation')

Civil partnership and divorce for same sex married couples

For civil partnerships, the 'five facts' are reduced to four as the fact of adultery cannot be relied upon as a basis for dissolving the partnership.  However, if one of the partners has been unfaithful then this would amount to 'unreasonable behaviour' and the dissolution could proceed on this basis.

For same sex marriages, adultery can be used as the basis for a divorce but this is restricted to instances where the adultery has been committed with a member of the opposite sex. In spite of recent reforms, adultery has retained its narrow and arguably old-fashioned definition as 'voluntary sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married to each other but one of whom at least is a married person'. As with civil partnerships, if a person in a same sex marriage has been unfaithful with a person of the same sex then this would be come under the heading of unreasonable behaviour.

Media divorce myths

The term 'quickie divorce' often occurs in the media when referring to the marriage dissolutions of celebrities. This is sometimes misunderstood as indicating some kind of fast track procedure to which only certain individuals have access. The reality is that in every case, the person initiating the proceedings must prove one of the five facts. However, the tag 'quickie' refers to the fact that those whose divorces are proceeding on an uncontested basis are able to take advantage of a simplified procedure which took away the need to attend court and 'prove the case' in front of a judge as used to happen.

Incidentally, if the couple has been married or in a civil partnership for less than one year, there are no circumstances under which a divorce or dissolution can be granted until a full year has passed since the ceremony. This is sometimes referred to as the 'one year rule'.

From petition to absolute (or petition to final order in the case of civil partnerships) - patience is required

Once a petition has been sent to the court there is a period of time allowed to enable the other person to acknowledge the proceedings and submit any reasons why the divorce or dissolution should not go ahead. Provided all the paperwork is in order, the court will grant the decree nisi (or in the case of a civil partnership, the conditional order) by literally reading it out in a courtroom.  In actual fact, neither party has to attend this 'court hearing' and almost nobody does unless there is a live dispute about the legal costs of the process. Sometimes journalists report on these hearings and mistakenly announce that a 'quickie divorce' has been granted. However, no matter how famous or rich the divorcing parties are they are not divorced until they have their decree absolute or final order in the case of civil partnerships.

In exceptional circumstances a court can grant a reduction in the period between decree nisi and decree absolute, but for most, the waiting period will be six weeks and one day.  Many petitioners will be advised by their family law solicitor to wait for a financial settlement to be in place before applying for the decree absolute or final order.  This can be a tricky technical area and whether this is necessary will depend on individual situations.

In most cases, an undefended divorce with no unusual circumstances will take around five to six months to go through from sending the petition to court to receiving the decree absolute. 

Divorce solicitors in Manchester and advice for you

Of course, each divorce is unique and your particular personal circumstances may affect the length of time it takes to complete your proceedings. For a no-obligation initial discussion regarding all matters relating to divorce please call the family law specialists at JMW Solicitors, Manchester.

The family law team handle all manner of family law matters and, by adhering to the Resolution code of conduct, are committed to resolving divorce cases in a constructive and conciliatory manner wherever possible whilst being mindful of cost and value for money for our clients.

Call us today on 0800 652 5577.

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