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The rules for divorce come from the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and state that no one is able to petition for divorce if they have been married for less than a year. Once the 12 months is up, if one of the parties to the marriage wants a divorce they will have to establish that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

To prove this they have to rely on one of the five facts, which are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Separation of two years and respondent agrees to divorce
  • Separation of five years, regardless of whether respondent agrees or not

Adultery - The adultery fact is two-pronged in that the petitioner has to be able to establish that the respondent has committed adultery and that the petitioner no longer finds it tolerable to live with the respondent. It is also important to note that the two issues do not have to be related. Therefore the petitioner can claim adultery but can argue that she can no longer live with the respondent for an entirely separate reason.

Unreasonable behaviour – This is actually a form of shorthand for the second fact. In fact it states that the respondent has behaved in such a way that, as a result, the petitioner can no longer bear to live with him or her. Being unreasonable is not enough; it must be so that a reasonable person could not be expected to continue to live with the respondent.

In fact the courts rarely test this fully and unreasonable behaviour can cover a whole range of behaviour. It is by far the most commonly used fact.

The three stages to a divorce start with:
A)    The filing of the divorce petition. As already stated, this establishes that you want the marriage to end and the petitioner applies to the court for permission to end the marriage, relying on one of the five facts.

B)    Once this is overcome, assuming the respondent does not contest the divorce, you can apply to the court for a decree nisi, which states that there is no reason why you cannot get a divorce.

C)    Once you receive the decree nisi you will have to wait at least six weeks to apply for a decree absolute which will legally end the marriage and leave either party free to remarry.