Divorce & Family

A divorce or separation can be a difficult and stressful time. Legally, however, a divorce is a relatively straightforward procedure. There is one ground for a divorce to occur and it is that the marriage has to be irretrievably/ permanently broken down. For a divorce to be complete it usually takes about four to six months. However, the overall timescale can be longer where there are other issues, for example, to resolve the matrimonial finances and/or matters relating to children. Divorce may be an option for you if you are separated from your other half, your relationship or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down.

You can get a divorce in England or Wales if you’ve been married at least a year and your relationship has permanently broken down. You must have a marriage that’s legally recognised in the UK - this includes same-sex marriage.

You must usually also have a permanent home in England or Wales. When you apply for a divorce you’ll need to prove that your marriage has broken down. You’ll need to give one or more of the following 5 reasons.


Your husband or wife had sexual intercourse with someone else of the opposite sex. The law recognises the act of adultery as sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. You can’t give adultery as a reason if you lived together as a couple for 6 months after you found out about it.

Unreasonable behaviour

Your husband or wife has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.

This could include:

 physical violence
 verbal abuse, such as insults or threats
 drunkenness or drug-taking
 refusing to pay for housekeeping


Your husband or wife has left you:

 without your agreement
 without a good reason
 to end your relationship
 for more than 2 years in the past 2.5 years

You can still claim desertion if you have lived together for up to a total of 6 months in this period.

You’ve been separated for more than 2 years

You can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for more than 2 years and both agree to the divorce.
Your husband or wife must agree in writing.
You can be separated while living in the same home as long as you’re not together as a couple (for example you sleep and eat apart).

You’ve been separated for at least 5 years

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