To get a divorce in England and Wales you must have been married for at least one year and show that your relationship has irretrievably broken down based on one of the following five grounds:
- Adultery – a sexual act between two people of the opposite sex
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years separation where both parties consent to the divorce
- Five years separation where one party consents to the divorce
The UK doesn’t allow immediate no fault divorces, which means that one person will have to petition the other for divorce. Couples wishing to proceed with a divorce without blame are not able to do so by mutual consent unless they have been separated for a minimum of two years. In absence of this mutual consent they must wait five years. Understandably, many couples who have separated do not want to put their lives on hold for this amount of time which often leaves couples with no choice but to petition for divorce on unreasonable behaviour. Petitioning on unreasonable behaviour can is argued by many as simply adding fuel to the fire by incentivising couples to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage.
A recent Supreme Court case, Owens and Owens, raised publicity to support the increasing call for no fault divorce to be introduced in this country. It was ruled that the wife would have to wait until she had been living separately from her husband for five years before she was able to obtain a divorce, as she was not able to prove any of the fault based grounds and her husband would not agree
Changes to what many view as archaic laws are welcomed by many in recognition that the current system causes unnecessary hostility in families at a time when emotions are already high. Removing fault from the situation should enable parties to concentrate on the more important issues following a separation, such as the arrangements for the children and how to resolve the matrimonial finances.
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