The court will grant you and your partner a divorce if it can be proven that the marriage has reached a state of irretrievable breakdown. This can be done if one of the five facts of divorce is shown to have occurred. As a Petitioner, the person applying for the divorce, you will have to state clearly which of the following five facts apply:


If your spouse has been unfaithful, then this is deemed a good enough reason for divorce. For the divorce to proceed, there must either be sufficient evidence that the act of adultery was committed or the Respondent (spouse of the petitioner) must admit to it.

It's important to note that, unlike the other four facts, adultery does not count as a valid reason for the dissolution of a civil partnership or same sex marriage. Currently, the definition of adultery under UK law strictly refers to sexual intercourse between a man and woman, not between members of the same sex. However, if a spouse commits adultery with a member of the same sex, then it can still be used as a factor under unreasonable behaviour.

There are also conditions that will discount adultery as a reason. If you have continued to live with your spouse for six months or more after finding out about their adultery, then this will be viewed by the courts as an attempt at fixing the situation, and they may no longer consider adultery to be the right reason to grant a divorce. But it should be noted that each new instance of adultery will reset the six-month timeframe.

Unreasonable behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour encompasses many things, including physical and mental abuse.

Unreasonable behaviour includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Your partner has been physically violent towards you
  • Your partner has been unreasonably controlling over you, having a damaging impact on your personal life by restricting who you can see and how often you can go out
  • Your partner has been verbally abusive to you, threatening you with insults
  • Your partner has not shown you adequate affection or attention and has repeatedly neglected your needs
  • Your partner has habitually exhibited destructive behaviours such as drug or alcohol addiction, gambling, and sex addiction

Determining unreasonable behaviour has the potential to be a contentious area, especially if your spouse will not admit to it. The process will require the Petitioner to make detailed claims against the Respondent, which is likely to heighten the conflict in an already fragile situation. This is why some couples will instead opt to separate and live apart rather than go through the sensitive process of establishing unreasonable behaviour.

Desertion for two years or more by the Respondent

If your partner has deserted you – meaning that they left without warning and with no explanation – for a period of two years or more, then you are able to apply to the courts for a divorce without consulting your partner. The two-year period of desertion will still count as being continuous even if you actually resumed living together for up to, but no longer than, six months. So if you lived apart for a total of two years in a two-and-a-half-year period, you may still be able to apply on the grounds of desertion.

Separation for two years or more and the Respondent consents to the divorce

If you have been living apart from your partner for two years and you both agree to a formal separation, then this will be enough evidence for the courts to grant a divorce. The joint agreement must be in writing.

Separation for five years or more

Living apart for a continuous period of five years will mean that you can apply for divorce without the agreement of your spouse. It is advisable, however, that you do discuss the decision with your spouse if possible so that you both understand the implications of the proceedings. After such a long timeframe, there is no need for the court to hear the details of why the marriage failed.

It is possible to live separately from your spouse even if you are both under the same roof. This can sometimes be the case for couples and usually occurs for financial reasons. While it is still possible to apply for divorce while sharing the same property, the court will require a detailed evaluation of your living arrangements. You will need to inform them about whether you share a bedroom, meals, or social time together and how you pay household bills.

Experienced family lawyers to help you establish grounds for divorce

In the many years that they have been working with divorcing couples, advising them on the right paths to take, Oratto's member divorce lawyers have acquired all the necessary skills and knowledge to help you with you through the process with as little stress as possible. They will be able to inform you of how your individual situation fits in with the five facts and whether you have sufficient grounds for divorce.

Find the right lawyer for you today.