At present, when a couple who are married or in a civil partnership wish to divorce, one of the partners must apply to the courts. When applying, the person must prove that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down due to one of the 5 legally accepted reasons for divorce:
- Adultery – defined as sexual intercourse with someone other than your partner. This cannot be used as a reason if you have known about it for 6 months or more.
- Unreasonable Behaviour – this includes violence, abuse, drunkenness, drug abuse or lack of financial support.
- 2 years Separation – the couple have lived separately for this period of time. This can only be used if both parties agree in writing to a divorce.
- 5 Years Separation – the couple has lived separately for this period of time. Both parties do not have to consent to use this reason.
- Desertion – if a person leaves the marital home without the agreement from their spouse, a good reason for leaving or with the intention of ending the relationship. It can be difficult for the motives to be proved in this case.
This means that when a couple has simply fallen out of love, divorce proceedings cannot take place immediately. If one party refuses to consent to divorce after 2 years of separation, the other party must wait for 5 years before the divorce proceedings can start.
When this situation arises, often one party will “find” unreasonable behaviour on the part of the other party. This causes acrimony which is not in the best interests of both parties involved and can often overflow into other issues (for example concerning the children).