How to divorce: the basics


Your wedding day is full of hopes for happiness and no-one wants to think that things will go wrong. But when you’re facing the fact that your marriage is over, you may be completely in the dark about what divorce is all about… or how to divorce, you may need to make sure that what you’ve been told by friends and relatives is correct. So here are a basics:

Divorce is the legal termination of a marriage, by decree of the court.

You have to be married for a year before you can apply for a divorce.

You can only be granted a divorce on one ground: irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Irretrievable breakdown is proven by establishing one (or more) of these five facts:

  • adultery
  • unreasonable behaviour
  • desertion
  • two years’ separation
  • five years’ separation

(My next blog will explain these five facts.)

There are some ‘bars’ to divorce – some (very limited) circumstances in which, even if one of these facts is proven, the court cannot grant a divorce.

The person ending the marriage has to apply to the court for a divorce. That person is known as the Petitioner.

Their spouse is the Respondent; they can either accept that the marriage has broken down, or they can defend the divorce.

If the Respondent does not defend the divorce, the court will only deal with the paperwork; the Petitioner doesn’t need to appear before the court to prove the facts declared to be the reason for the breakdown.

Financial matters and disputes over children from the marriage are dealt with separately from the divorce petition, but often these matters need to be resolved before the divorce is finalised.

Following divorce, each party is legally free to remarry.

The dissolution of civil partnerships follows a very similar process.

The process is currently under review. Reformers suggest that we should move to a ‘no-fault’ or ‘no-blame’ system of divorce instead. For more information about how to divorce someone, get in touch and we’ll be happy to talk you through it.

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