Relationship Breakdown: Frequently Asked Questions

23rd April 2021 10:48 am Comments Off on Relationship Breakdown: Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get a divorce?

You can get divorced in England and Wales if:

  • You have been married for over one year;
  • Your marriage has permanently (or “irretrievably”) broken down;
  • Your marriage is legally recognised in the United Kingdom; and
  • You (or your spouse) permanently live in the United Kingdom.

What are the grounds for divorce?

When you apply for a divorce, you will need to prove that your marriage has broken down and cannot be saved. You will need to give one or more of the following five reasons (or “facts”):

  1. Adultery – your spouse had sexual intercourse with someone else of the opposite sex.
  2. Unreasonable behaviour – your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live them.
  3. Desertion – your spouse has left (or “deserted”) you for a continuous period of two years.
  4. You have been separated for two years and your spouse consents to the divorce – you and your spouse have been separated for a period of two years and you both agree to the divorce.
  5. You have been separated for five years – you and your spouse have been separated for a period of five years (your spouse does not need to agree to the divorce).

How long does it take to get divorced?

A divorce can take between six and eight months from start to finish, if your spouse does not dispute (or “defend”) the proceedings. The process is started by the applicant (or “petitioner”) submitting the divorce petition to the court and it is finished once the court pronounces the Decree Absolute.

If your spouse disputes the divorce or finance proceedings, then this timescale can be significantly longer.

If I apply for a divorce, will I have to go to court?

If you and your spouse have reached an agreement about your divorce and financial arrangements, then it will not be necessary for either of you to attend court. The court will be able to process your application for a divorce and a financial consent order by reviewing the documents submitted by you.

However, if you are unable to reach an agreement with your spouse about the divorce and/or financial arrangements, then it may become necessary for both of you to attend court. Many hearings are now being dealt with remotely, so you may not be required to attend court in person.

What is the difference between a marriage and a civil partnership?

There are different statutes relating to marriage and civil partnership. For marriage, the relevant statues include the Marriage Act 1949, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. For civil partnership, the relevant statutes include the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the Civil Partnership (Opposite Sex Couples) Regulations 2019.

The basic legal requirements are the same for both marriage and civil partnership. For example, both parties must be over the age of 16 to get married or enter a civil partnership.

However, there are some key differences between marriage and civil partnership, as follows:

  • A marriage certificate requires the names of both partners’ fathers, while a civil partnership certificate requires the names of both parents;
  • Civil partners cannot call themselves “married” for legal purposes;
  • A marriage is ended by divorce and by the court pronouncing the Decree Absolute, while a civil partnership is ended by dissolution and by the court pronouncing the Dissolution Order; and
  • Adultery is one of the grounds for divorce, but it is not a valid reason to dissolve a civil partnership.

We are not married, but we live together as husband and wife, what happens if we separate?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a “common law marriage”. As a result, you will not be treated by the law in England and Wales as being married, unless you have formally registered your relationship by getting married or entering into a civil partnership.

If you have not put in place a “living together (or “cohabitation”) agreement”, then the following could apply:

  • If you do not own the property in which you live, or you do not own a share of the house in which you live, then you will not have an automatic legal entitlement to remain living there.
  • If the possessions within the property in which you live are owned or were purchased by your former partner, then you will not have an automatic legal entitlement to a share in those possessions.
  • You will not have any legal right to receive monetary payments from your former partner to help maintain yourself, but you will still be entitled to claim child maintenance.

I do not want to get a divorce but my spouse and I have separated. Can you still help me?

If you do not want to get a divorce, perhaps for religious reasons or because you would like some time and space to decide if you want to formally end your marriage, then you can get a legal separation so that you can live apart and achieve certainty with your matrimonial and financial affairs, without ending your marriage. You can ask for a legal separation on the same basis that you would file for a divorce, however, you will not have to show that your marriage has permanently broken down

Alternatively, you might be able to annul your marriage. To do this, you will need to show that the marriage was never legally valid (“void”) or that it was legally valid but “voidable”.

Contact us

Contact one of our family solicitors on 01628 631051 or email family@colemans.co.uk to make an appointment.


Categorised in: Family Law

This post was written by Colemans Solicitors LLP

© Colemans Solicitors LLP, 2021
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The information given on this website is not a comprehensive review of the law and practices in this area and does not constitute legal advice on a specific issue. Colemans Solicitors LLP does not therefore accept liability if you rely on or apply this information to your specific situation without taking bespoke advice. To seek detailed legal advice in relation to your specific circumstances or transaction please contact us.