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Honest disclosure

When am I entitled to a divorce?

It is a common misconception that a divorce can be obtained on the basis of ‘irreconcilable differences’. This is an American term which has no relevance in English law. There is one ground for divorce and that is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. However, to be able to divorce this has to be proved by establishing the existence of one of five factual circumstances. These are:

• Your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to continue to live with him/her
• Your spouse has behaved in such a way that it would be unreasonable to expect you to continue live with him/her
• Your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of two years or more
• You have been living apart from your spouse for two years or more and your spouse agrees to the divorce
• You have been living apart from your spouse for five years or more, whether or not your spouse agrees to the divorce

In a petition based on adultery, it is no longer compulsory to name the third person concerned and in fact the courts dissuade parties from doing so. It is also worth pointing out that adultery can be relied upon even after spouses separate; as such the adultery does not need to be the reason for the marriage breaking down and the fact that your spouse has committed adultery, even after separation, is a sufficient ground for divorce.

However, evidence of adultery is needed and this is usually by way of the spouse admitting to adultery. If your spouse will not admit to adultery and there is no clear proof of this then a petition can still be based upon unreasonable behaviour, this being your spouse’s involvement in an inappropriate relationship. The evidence required for this is usually less.

We are able to advise on whether grounds for divorce exist within an initial free consultation.

Peter Howe

27th February 2012

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