Grounds for Divorce Myths

Myth

“Assault requires you to physically hurt the other person or to be hurt by them.”

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In legal terms, assault means putting a person in fear of any harm to their person. Beware making angry threats as you may see them used against you in writing as unreasonable behaviour or in a child contact case where the wife can say: “How can I take them to see him when he has threatened to kill me”.

Myth

“I can divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences.”

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There is no such ground for divorce. In order to get divorced, you have to prove to the court that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. This you do by relying upon one of the five grounds for divorce under The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. These are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two year’s separation with consent, five year’s separation without consent, desertion.

Myth

“I’m not committing adultery as I formed the relationship after we separated.”

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If you have a sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex while you are still married, then it is adultery, even if so far as you are concerned your relationship with your spouse has come to an end or you have been physically separated for some time. As such, it can be reasonably cited in any divorce proceedings brought by your former spouse.

Myth

“We can just divorce on irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. We don’t want to say anything horrible about each other”

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At present under English Law, whilst the main ground for divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, you have to cite one of five facts to support that. This involves you having to say something about the other party’s behaviour or tell the court about any new relationship they have. If you can’t or don’t wish to do that, you have to separate and wait a period of two years (with the consent of the other party) or five years if they don’t consent.

Myth

“I have been having an affair for six months. I can use my adultery to satisfy the court that my marriage has irretrievably broken down and petition for divorce on that basis.”

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The person who is seeking the divorce, or petitioner, cannot rely on their own adultery to prove the marriage has broken down. The other party would need to seek the divorce, citing adultery. Another ground will need to be pursued in this case to secure a divorce.

Myth

“I need evidence of unreasonable behaviour to divorce my spouse on that ground.”

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You don’t need any evidence to prove unreasonable behaviour. It is a subjective test. You just need to include sufficient incidents that you consider unreasonable in the petition. If the judge agrees with you, the petition will go through.

Myth

“Two women can commit adultery. ”

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They cannot because it is still considered, in law, to be an improper association and not adultery. Adultery can only occur between a man and a woman. An improper association between two women or two men, however, is insufficient in itself to secure a divorce on the ground of adultery. You would need to consider filing a petition on the basis of unreasonable behaviour instead.

Myth

“I can only divorce my husband if he does something wrong. ”

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This is not strictly true. Although one party may divorce the other on the basis of their adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the other grounds for divorce are two years’ separation or five years’ separation. In each case, you must show the marriage has irretrievably broken down, but there does not need to be a specific wrongdoing cited as well.