What is the best reason to use for divorce?

Best Reasons for divorce

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What is the best reason to use for divorce?

One of the most important decisions divorcing couples must make is the reason why they are getting a divorce. Couple’s often think that it’s enough to say that they have ‘grown apart’ to end their marriage. However, unless you have lived apart from your spouse for more than two years, you must place blame on your husband/wife to obtain a divorce.

You must show that the conduct of your spouse is such that it is unreasonable to expect you to live with them. This means that you are unable or simply not willing to remain in a marriage with your spouse. Your relationship cannot be retrieved and has come to a definite end.

There are five reasons, commonly referred to as grounds for divorce in the UK. Choosing the right grounds for divorce is essential for a quick divorce through the courts. Choosing the wrong reason can cause long and expensive delays.

Reasons for divorce – The five facts

The person who starts proceedings is called the Petitioner. If the Petitioner can convince the courts that their marriage has irretrievably broken down, the court will allow the divorce. To prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, the Petitioner must use one of five reasons for divorce:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years separation with consent
  • Five years separation (no consent required)


In legal terms, adultery refers explicitly to a married man or woman having sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex. This means that many behaviours often thought of as adultery are not in the eyes of the law.

Legally, adultery covers only sexual intercourse, which means behaviours such as kissing, masturbation, fellatio, sexting, and virtual sex do not count to get divorced.

You can only use Adultery if actual sexual intercourse took place between your spouse and a person of the opposite sex.

Under current law, if you are in a civil partnership, you cannot rely on adultery. Even if your partner committed adultery with a member of the opposite sex.

Its often thought that divorce on the grounds of adultery is the most commonly used reason. However, due to the difficulty in proving that it took place, only 9% of men and 10% of women use adultery according to the latest research from the Office of National Statistics.

Read this article for more information on how to use adultery as the reason for your divorce.

Unreasonable behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is the most common reason for divorce. 35% of men and 49% of women used it last year.

To use unreasonable behaviour, the Petitioner must show that the conduct of their spouse is such that it is unreasonable for the court to expect the Petitioner to live with them.

The Divorce Petition must include examples of the Respondent’s unreasonable behaviour during the marriage. This can consist of severe or relatively mild allegations of behaviour.

Common examples of unreasonable behaviour include physical and verbal abuse, alcohol or drug misuse and financial irresponsibility.

For more details about using unreasonable behaviour as your reason for divorce read this article.

Desertion as a reason for divorce

Of the 107,000 divorces in England and Wales in 2019, less than 400 people used desertion as their ground for divorce.

The Petitioner needs to show that the Respondent has deserted him/her for a continuous period of at least two years. Proving that desertion took place can be tricky. So two years separation is often used as the ground for divorce instead.

Two years separation with consent

If a married couple has lived separately for two years or more and both agree in writing to a divorce, they can use this as a reason for divorce.

Two years separation with consent is the second most common reason for divorce after unreasonable behaviour, used by 33% of men and 25% of women.

Five years separation without consent

If a married couple has lived separately for five years or more, then this can be proof of marital breakdown. Although both people need to agree to use two years of separation to obtain a divorce, five years of separation can be used even if your spouse does not agree to a divorce.

Last year 23% of men and 15% of women used five years separation as their reason for divorce.

Choosing the right reason for divorce

To make your divorce as straightforward as possible, it is vital to establish the reason for your divorce. In many cases, the reasons for the marriage breakdown don’t fit neatly into one of the five reasons for divorce, and often there is overlap.

If you need help deciding on the best reason to use for your divorce, we offer a free consultation to understand your situation and give you some guidance on the best grounds to use. Please call 0204 530 8101 or email contact@easyonlinedivorce.co.uk.

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