Grounds for divorce

Grounds for divorce

To get divorced in England & Wales, you must:

  • Be married for at least a year
  • Have a 'ground for divorce' / reason to legally end your marriage or civil partnership: you can choose one of these reasons; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two or five years separation. If you are in a same-sex marriage or couple you can you use all other of the reasons below apart from adultery.
  • Have an address for your ex so the court can send them the divorce papers
  • An original/ certified copy of your marriage certificate, in English
  • £593 to pay the government, see this as a filing / admin fee. You can also check if you / your ex is entitled to a discount on the court fees here

Read what the grounds for divorce are below.


One of you has had sex with someone of the opposite sex. You can't use adultery as a reason if you have lived together as a couple for six months after you found out about it.

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Wedding rings
Couple sitting on sofa

Unreasonable behaviour

One person has behaved in a way that means the other person feels they cannot continue to live with them. Examples of behaviour might include abuse or addiction but increasingly court will accept milder examples such as a lack of love and emotional support.

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Two years separation

You’ve lived apart for more than two years. This can be in the same household provided you have separate sleeping, eating and financial arrangements. Both of you must confirm this in writing.

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Divorce in dictionary with wedding rings
Couple talking over coffee

Five years separation

You’ve lived apart for more than five years. This is different to two years separation as your husband/wife doesn’t have to agree to the divorce.

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One person has left the other without agreement, and without good reason, for a period of more than two years in the past two and a half years. You can still use desertion if you’ve lived together for up to six months in this period.

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Dad and children in living room