What are the Grounds for Divorce in the UK?

Unfortunately, not all marriages will last forever. While the divorce rate does seem to be steadily decreasing, there are still many couples that will split during their lifetime. In most cases, this will be the best solution for the happiness of both people, as well as for the rest of the family. It can be a fresh start for everyone and a chance to start again.

But what are the common grounds for divorce in the United Kingdom? In general, there are five grounds for divorce recognised in the law. This means that in order to have your marriage legally ended, your situation must fit into one of these grounds. Let’s take a look at them in more detail.


If one of the partners has been unfaithful and had an affair during the marriage, this is a ground for divorce. Even if both partners have had an affair, the marriage can be legally ended. In order to do this, it is important to file the divorce petition within six months of the discovery of adultery. This will show that your marriage is no longer possible and you can no longer live together in harmony.

Unreasonable Behaviour

A lot of couples will ask for a divorce on the ground of unreasonable behaviour. This is a ground that can apply to many different situations. The key is that this behaviour let to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and you can no longer live with your partner after this behaviour. For example, some unreasonable behaviours could involve abuse from a partner, their drunkenness, being affected by mental abuse and taking drugs. As long as the unreasonable behaviour can be explained and justified, the divorce will be granted.


If you are in a situation where your spouse has left you, this can be a ground for divorce. This should be desertion for around two years before you think of applying for a divorce. There does not have to be a reason for the desertion, just that they have been absent. This will allow divorce to be granted without needing their consent.

Separated for at Least Two Years

If you have been separated from your partner for at least two years, you will be able to file a petition for a divorce. It will be necessary for your husband or wife to agree to the divorce. This must be done by consent that is in writing. However, you can still apply for this ground of divorce even if you have been living together during this time. But you must not be living together as husband and wife. For example, you should be sleeping in separate rooms, not eating together and still living separate lives.

Separated for at Least Five Years

The last ground for divorce in the UK is separation for at least five years. As long as you have been separated from your spouse for at least five years, you will not need their consent. In fact, they can even disagree to the divorce and it can still be granted. This divorce option will require you to prove you have been living apart for this number of years to the court.

What is the Difference between a Divorce and an Annulment?

In some circumstances, you will be able to consider an annulment rather than a divorce. This means that the marriage was never legally valid in the first place or that a circumstance means that it is voidable. It is best to consider annulment in the first year of your marriage. It is possible within the first five years. However, the longer you leave the marriage, the harder it will be to prove that it is void or voidable.

Void Marriages

Void marriages mean that your union was not legally valid. This can happen if you are related to the person that you have become married to. In addition, it can be void if one of the persons was under 16 years of age. If one of the spouses is already legally married or in a civil partnership, your marriage will not be legal and it will be classed as void.

Marriage is Voidable

A marriage can be annulled by the courts if it was voidable. There are a number of reasons why this might happen. For example, if you did not consent to the marriage, it can be annulled. If you can prove that you did not have a choice and you were forced into the marriage, you can have it ripped up. Other ways to make your marriage voidable are to claim that it was not consummated or your spouse became pregnant with another person. In addition, if one partner is transitioning to a different gender, the marriage can be classed as voidable.