What are the main points to know about UK divorce law?


It is useful to know the main points of UK divorce law if you are thinking of consulting a legal advisor on the matter, and you want to understand the main points for a future discussion. In any case, it is advisable to seek the legal advice of an expert divorce solicitor if you are considering divorce, in order to best protect your interests.

In order to start divorce proceeding in England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

  • You must have been married for a minimum of one year (two years in Northern Ireland)
  • Your marriage must be recognised as valid, otherwise the marriage may be annulled
  • You or your partner must have been domiciled in the UK for at least a year before the application for divorce is made

Either partner may file a petition for divorce to the court (the petitioner); the other partner is then known as the respondent. If you and your partner can agree on the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage, the divorce case may be shortened by being undefended. In fact, if a separated married couple draw up a Deed of Separation after consulting their divorce solicitors, this may also simplify an eventual divorce, as such a document can form the basis of the divorce settlement.

If the respondent wants to defend the divorce, they must file an answer within 28 days. If there is a child or children from the marriage, then a Statement of Arrangements about them must also be filed. The petitioner shows that the marriage has broken down irretrievably by proving that there are grounds for divorce. The grounds are to be outlined in the petition and there are five categories, but only one can be given. The grounds for divorce are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion of more than two years, without consent or good reason
  • Two years’ separation by mutual consent
  • Five years’ separation if the parties do not agree to the divorce

Divorce law in Scotland differs in certain aspects from the rest of the UK. For example:

  • There is a greater burden of proof for establishing fault
  • Individual gifts or inheritances do not count toward matrimonial assets
  • Separation agreements are almost always used in Scotland, and do not need to be ratified by the court
  • Long term support orders are not commonly made

If you would like to obtain legal advice on divorce, Caven can put you in touch with a local divorce solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local divorce solicitors please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.

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