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You can get divorced in England or Wales if you are married for over a year and you believe that your relationship has complete broken down provided your marriage is legally recognized and your permanent residence is in the UK.

There is also an option for legal separation which you can get without ending your marriage. You can apply this in the first year of your marriage.

Grounds for divorce

You will need reasons to prove that your relationship doesn’t stand a chance. These reasons may include:


Your husband or wife had sexual relationship with someone else and they have done sexual intercourse but you cannot use this as a reason if you have found out about it after 6 months.

Unreasonable behaviour

Your husband or wife has behaved which is not reasonably expected when you are living together like:

  • physical violence
  • verbal abuse, such as insults or threats
  • drunkenness or drug-taking
  • refusing to pay towards shared living expenses


You can apply for divorce if your husband or wife has deserted or left for at least 2 years.

You can still claim desertion if you have lived together for up to a total of 6 months in this period, but that will not count towards the 2 years.

Separation 2 years

You can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for at least 2 years before applying for divorce and you both agree to it.

Your husband or wife must agree in writing.

It may be possible for you to show that you’ve been separated while living in the same home as your wife or husband as long as you’re not living together as a couple (for example you sleep and eat apart).

Separation 5 years

You can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for at least 5 years before applying, even if your husband or wife disagrees.

What happens after you apply

Your application will be checked. If it’s correct, you’ll be sent:

  • a notice that your application has been issued
  • a copy of your application stamped by the divorce centre
  • a case number allotted to your petition.

The court will send your husband or wife the divorce application and an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form. Your husband or wife will need to respond to your divorce application.

If you named someone your husband or wife committed adultery with, they’ll also be sent a copy of the application and be asked to respond.


The acknowledgement of service form asks your husband or wife if they:

  • agree with the divorce
  • intend to defend divorce

Non-Contested Divorce:

If the divorce is not contested then you can continue with the divorce and apply for decree nisi which is a legal document that says that the court does not see any reason why you cannot divorce.

Contested Divorce:

Your husband or wife will have to complete an ‘answer to divorce’ form to say why they disagree with the divorce. They must do this within 28 days of getting the divorce application.

If they do not submit an ‘answer to divorce’ form, you can continue the divorce by applying for a decree nisi.

If either of the partner intend to defend the divorce then it may proceed to court stage where the case will be discussed in detail.

You can apply for decree absolute which is the legal document that ends the marriage. It has to be applied within 12 months of decree nisi otherwise court need explanation of the delay.

If either of the partner lacks mental capacity then a litigation friend is assigned the job and litigation friend can be close friend or family member who would represent the party.