Relationship breakdown? What are the grounds for divorce?

Barker Son & Isherwood LLP


Phone 01264 353411


Once you have made the difficult decision to end your marriage and get a divorce, you must consider what reason to give for your marriage breakdown in the divorce petition. If you apply for the divorce petition, this makes you the petitioner and your ex-spouse the respondent.

When you complete the divorce petition, you have to give a reason for the divorce and there are five to choose from. They are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Separation for two years (if the divorce is agreed by your partner)
  • Separation for five years (if the divorce is not agreed by your ex-spouse)


Each of these reasons for divorce can be used in your petition, but you should consider which one to use carefully.

Adultery – this is straightforward and self-explanatory – you can use this if your ex-spouse has been unfaithful and had sexual relations outside of your marriage. If you use adultery as the reason for your divorce, you must prove this fact with evidence and this could be problematic. If your ex-spouse is happy to admit their affair, then you can use adultery but if not, they could contest the divorce on this ground so it may be better to choose another.

 Unreasonable behaviour – this fact is the most commonly used ground for divorce and covers a huge breadth of issues from domestic violence to not helping with the domestic chores. In fact, what is unreasonable to you, may not seem unreasonable to others but you should be prepared to explain the unreasonable behaviour that has caused your marriage to break down irretrievably and provide examples of it.

 Desertion – this is not used very often as your ex-spouse will need to ‘desert’ you for at least two years, and by desertion, just walk out and leave. The problem with this ground for divorce is that you have to prove that you were deserted. Your ex-spouse may leave and not tell you they were leaving so it is not clear if they deserted you or not. In addition, there is the ground for divorce to be separated for at least two years and this could be used instead.

Separation for two years – this ground can be used if your ex-spouse agrees with the divorce. You may need to show evidence that you have been separated for all of this time.

Separation for five years – you will have to rely on a five-year separation if your ex-spouse will not agree with the divorce on any other grounds. This is a last resort and you will not need to get your spouse’s consent, you will just need to show that you have lived apart from your ex-spouse for at least five years before the petition is issued.

Before going forward with a divorce petition, you should get legal advice about which grounds for divorce would be best to use and advice about your financial and child settlements, which whilst they do not form part of a divorce, are absolutely essential to get right.

If you would like to talk to us about how we can help you with your divorce, please contact Sandra Machin at 01264 353411. Alternatively, you contact us online or send an email to"> We will be pleased to assist you.

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