Grounds for divorce

There are various reasons people file for divorce but, in order to do so, a couple must be married for at least a year.

There are five key grounds for divorce. These are:

  • Adultery.
  • Unreasonable behaviour.
  • Desertion.
  • Two years separation.
  • Five years separation.

Ending A Marriage

Although it may seem unfair, the fault of the marriage breakdown isn’t likely to make a difference, so it’s best to keep things as amicable as possible. Resist the urge to use divorce as a form of revenge against your spouse.

With regards to financial arrangements, courts will use the same methods to value assets, regardless of the grounds for divorce.


Adultery refers to your partner having sex with another and, as a result, you can no longer tolerate living with them.

It is the most difficult ground for divorce to prove. You must have separated with your spouse within six months of learning of the adulterous act and, if they do not admit to it, you will have to prove it.

This can be tricky, often requiring firm evidence. Often, it’s easier to file for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.

Unreasonable Behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is the most common ground used when filing for divorce.

Broadly speaking, this is when you find your spouse’s behaviour so unreasonable you can no longer bear to live with them.

Your case is likely to be stronger if proceedings start within six months of the latest act of unreasonable behaviour.

Examples of extreme unreasonable behaviour include:

  • Drinking to excess.
  • Taking drugs.
  • Gambling.
  • Lack of emotional support.
  • Violent behaviour; verbal or physical.

It’s important to consider that although the above can constitute unreasonable behaviour, the reasons don’t have to be this severe. A court only needs to be satisfied the behaviour has caused it to become intolerable for you to continuing living with your partner.

Additionally, the behaviour does not have to be intentional, so if your spouse is being unreasonable without intent, you still have grounds for divorce.

Other examples of unreasonable behaviour include:

  • Wasting or withholding money.
  • Behaving in a way that undermines your confidence, such as excessive flirting.
  • Unsociable behaviour, such as long periods of silence.
  • Selfish behaviour, like expecting you to complete all the housework or leaving the house overnight without explaining their whereabouts.
  • Antisocial behaviour, including calling family members abusive names.

If filing for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, the petition does not need to include lengthy details. In fact, often both parties can agree the content of the petition before issuing.

If your spouse does decide to contest the divorce, the issue will be examined in more depth.


In order to file for divorce on the grounds of desertion, your partner must have left you:

  • Without your agreement.
  • Without good reason.
  • To end your relationship.

Your spouse must have disappeared for at least two years and you can’t have lived together for more than six months within this time.

Two Years Separation

Two years separation can be used as grounds for divorce, so long as you have lived apart for at least two years.

In this circumstance, you must both agree to the divorce and the agreement must be in writing.

Five Years Separation

If you and your partner have been living apart for five years or more, you may use this as grounds for divorce.

Unlike two years separation, in this circumstance your partner does not have to agree to the divorce.

If you decide to file for divorce, the legal process will begin. For most, this starts with a conversation with a solicitor to find out about the steps involved and potentials costs.