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Marriage Breakdown


Currently, if your marriage has irretrievably broken down and you believe the only available option open to you is to start divorce proceedings, then you can only do this by proving one of five reasons to divorce your spouse. Those reasons are:

  1. Your spouse has committed adultery with another person.
  2. As a result of your spouse’s behaviour you can no longer live with them (“unreasonable behaviour”).
  3. You have been abandoned by your spouse for at least two years (“desertion”).
  4. You have been separated for two years and your spouse will consent to the divorce.
  5. You have been separated for five years (no consent from spouse required).

The first 3 categories above are “fault” or “conduct” based divorces and the last two separation divorces , by their very nature, take a significant time to conclude from the time of your initial separation.

As long as one of the five grounds above can be proven and the divorce is not defended by your spouse then it would normally take about four to six months from the date the application was started in court for the proceedings to be concluded which is termed the Decree Absolute (on occasions the divorce may take more than six months or even years if other matters such as financial issues need to be resolved).

However, the divorce process is due to change in England and Wales in the very near future when the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act comes into force in April.

The new procedure will remove the need to prove “adultery”, “unreasonable behaviour” or “desertion” and will also ensure you will not need to wait two years (with consent) or five years (if no consent) to start the divorce.

The new procedure will be more simplified and would avoid the acrimonious nature of many current fault based divorces. It will require the applicant (formerly known as a petitioner) to make an application for a divorce to the local Family Court and a copy of the application will be sent to the other spouse (known as the respondent). No allegations or other reasons will need to be inserted in the divorce application and the applicant would simply just need to confirm that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. After twenty weeks (the “cooling off” period) the applicant will be able to progress the divorce by applying for a Conditional Order (formerly a Decree Nisi). After a further six weeks the applicant can conclude the divorce by applying for a Final Order (formerly a Decree Absolute).

If your marriage has broken down or if you need any advice on any family related matter please contact of one our family law experts, Stephen Warburton or David Bannister, at our Northwich office on 01606 74301.