What are the grounds for Divorce in the UK?

What are the grounds for divorce in the UK?

While no-fault divorce rules have simplified the divorce process, they have confused matters as people attempt to do it themselves rather than get legal advice. Unfortunately I do have many clients who attempt to do it themselves and it causes delays and issues especially with financial matters.” – Harpreet Saund, Head of Family.


In April 2022, the UK divorce system underwent a major change. “No-fault” divorce was introduced, meaning you no longer need to blame your spouse or provide specific reasons for wanting a divorce. This article explains how divorce works in England and Wales under the new system.

The Old System: Grounds for Divorce Before 2022

Before the 2022 changes, getting a divorce in the UK was more complicated. You could only end your marriage if you proved “irretrievable breakdown”.  To demonstrate this, you had to choose one of five specific reasons:

  • Adultery: Your spouse had an affair, and you found it impossible to continue living with them.
  • Unreasonable Behaviour: Your spouse behaved in a way that made the marriage intolerable (this could include abuse or persistent unpleasantness).
  • Desertion: Your spouse left you without your permission for at least two years.
  • Two Years Separation (with consent): You and your spouse both agreed to the divorce and had lived apart for two years.
  • Five Years Separation (no consent needed): You’d been separated for five years, and your spouse didn’t have to agree to the divorce.

The New System: No-Fault Divorce

The biggest change introduced in 2022 is the removal of blame. You no longer need to provide specific reasons for wanting a divorce. Instead, you simply file a “Statement of Irretrievable Breakdown” to indicate that the marriage is over. This can be done by one spouse or jointly by both.

Another significant change is that your spouse can no longer contest the divorce. This reduces potential conflict and helps couples move towards a more amicable separation.

Important Considerations

No Automatic Divorce

In the UK, there’s no such thing as automatic or “quickie” divorce, even if you’ve been separated for a long time.  A formal divorce process is still required to legally dissolve the marriage. This misconception likely comes from the old system, where waiting periods were mandatory under certain circumstances.

The New Process: Key Steps

  • Statement of Irretrievable Breakdown: You simply declare that the marriage is over. You must have been married for at least 12 months to file.
  • Serving Notice: The spouse filing has 28 days to serve the other spouse with divorce papers, usually via email.
  • Court’s Acceptance: Your statement of breakdown is taken as proof that the marriage is over.
  • 20-Week Reflection Period: This mandatory period is a chance to discuss and ideally agree on practical matters like finances and arrangements for any children.
  • Conditional Order: This is the new name for what was called the “decree nisi”.
  • 6-Week Cooling-Off Period:After this, a final order (formerly the “decree absolute”) is granted, officially ending the marriage.

Even with the simplified no-fault divorce, it’s highly advisable to get expert legal advice. A divorce solicitor will ensure you understand your rights, protect your interests, and help you navigate the process as smoothly as possible.

Understanding the Financial Impact of Divorce

Divorce has significant financial consequences for both spouses. Understanding the basics of how assets and debts are typically divided can help protect your interests and ensure a fair outcome.

Key Areas to Consider:

  • The Family Home: Who gets to stay, or will it be sold? How will the equity (value) be split?
  • Pensions: These are often a substantial asset, and divorce can impact your future retirement income. Pension sharing or offsetting might be involved.
  • Joint Savings & Investments: How these are fairly divided will depend on various factors, including contributions made by each spouse.
  • Debts: Any joint debts, like mortgages or credit cards, remain the responsibility of both parties, even after separation.
  • Spousal Support (Maintenance): In some cases, one spouse may be entitled to financial support from the other, especially if there’s a significant income disparity.

There’s no simple formula for dividing assets in a divorce.  Factors like the length of the marriage, earning potential, individual needs, and contributions (financial and non-financial) all play a role.

Why You Need Expert Advice

Protecting Your Interests: The team at RLK Solicitors understands the complexities of divorce finances. We’ll fight to ensure you receive a fair settlement that protects your financial well-being.

Understanding Your Options: Our experienced solicitors will clearly explain different ways assets can be divided (e.g., selling the house, pension sharing, offsetting assets). We’ll help you choose the approach that best suits your situation.

Long-Term Planning:  We take a holistic view of divorce settlements, considering both your immediate needs and long-term financial future. Our goal is to help you emerge from this process feeling secure and ready for the next chapter.

Need Help With Your Divorce?

The experienced divorce team at RLK Solicitors understands the complexities of divorce and the importance of securing a fair outcome. Contact us today to learn how we can support you through this process and help you move towards a positive future.