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5 Valid Reasons for Getting a Divorce

There are several ways to prove that a marriage has broken down to justify divorce proceedings. You would need to give at least one of these five grounds for divorce in the United Kingdom.

Grounds for Divorce: Adultery

In fact, committing adultery is not considered as a criminal offence in Great Britain. But, adulterous behaviour is one of the most common reasons for a divorce.

Even so, there are some situations when you cannot give adultery as a petition for divorce.

For example, living together as a couple for at least six (6) months after finding out about the adultery would make the grounds invalid.

Adultery Definition

There is a simple definition of adultery in divorce. It occurs if a spouse (husband or wife) has sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex and the other spouse feels unable to continue living with them afterward.

Note: In the United Kingdom, the law recognises the act of adultery as sexual intercourse taking place between a man and a woman.

Unreasonable Behaviour

There are different ways a husband or a wife can behave ‘unreasonably’ as a contributing factor in the breakdown of the marriage.

For divorce grounds purposes, one of the spouses must have behaved in such a way that the other spouse could not ‘reasonably’ be expected to continue living with them.

Typical examples of allegations cited as unreasonable behaviour in divorce include:

  • Drunkenness or drug-taking
  • Not wanting to engage in any sexual or physical relations
  • Physical violence
  • Verbal abuse (e.g. using insults or threats)
  • Financial irresponsibility (e.g. refusing to pay for housekeeping)

Note: In recent years, filing for unreasonable behaviour has become the most common reason used to prove the ground for divorce in England and Wales.

Desertion Divorce

Desertion as grounds for divorce is rarely used as it can be very difficult to prove a ‘continuous period’. As a rule, your husband or wife would have deserted you without your consent for at least two (2) years.

Grounds for Getting a Divorce in the United KingdomDivorce desertion grounds mean your husband or wife has left you:

  • Without a good reason.
  • Without your agreement.
  • To end the relationship.
  • For a period over two years in the previous thirty months (2.5 years).

Note: Living together for up to a total of six (6) months in this period means you can still cite desertion in the divorce petition.

Separated for more than 2 Years (with consent)

Providing both parties agree to it, you can apply for a divorce after a separation over two (2) years. As a rule, the husband or the wife must agree to it in writing.

Note: While ‘separated’, you can still live in the same home. But, you should not be living together as a couple (e.g. you eat and sleep apart).


Getting a Divorce | Read through the key steps to follow and how the process of divorce works.

How to Apply for a Divorce | A list of things you need and how much it costs to apply for a divorce.

Separated for at least 5 Years (without consent)

If you have already separated for at least five (5) years you can apply for a divorce. This rule applies even if your wife or your husband disagrees to it.

In most cases, you would need to know the contact address of your spouse. Not knowing means the proceedings can become much more complex, more expensive, and take longer to complete.

Note: Despite being uncommon, your spouse can decide to hold up the final decree if they feel they would be worse off ‘financially’.

Grounds for Getting a Divorce in the United Kingdom