Explaining the Grounds For Divorce UK

Dealing with issues like divorce is something we specialise in at Higgins Miller. We are experts in family law, and that means knowing how to help and support people going through highly stressful life events such as adoption, dealing with wills and probate and liaising with social services. We offer a tried and tested blend of legal expertise and empathetic support, which is focused on enabling our clients to cope with difficult circumstances such as the end of a marriage. Our focus is always placed on avoiding the need for appearances in court as far as possible where divorce is concerned, and working with clients to reach an amicable agreement regarding the end of a relationship. This always begins with an explanation of the permissible grounds for divorce UK.

Although no fault divorces are going to become a part of UK law in April 2022, couples who wish to formally end their marriage at the moment still need to come up with permissible grounds. Some couples might wish to delay the actual divorce until the so-called ‘quickie divorce’ becomes possible, but for those who wish to end the marriage as soon as possible, it will be vital to understand exactly what the grounds for divorce UK actually are in 2021. 

Since it is now impossible to mutually agree to a divorce, any couple wishing to end their marriage will need to be able to demonstrate that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. This is what is generally referred to as the grounds for divorce UK, and the alternatives which are available are as follows:


Adultery refers to the fact of a husband or wife having sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex. If adultery is to be used as grounds for divorce UK then the party asking for the divorce has to start the process within six months of having found out about the adultery. If the party in question has known about the adultery for six months or more without instigating divorce proceedings then it cannot be used as grounds for divorce. In order to demonstrate that adultery has taken place the partner asking for the divorce will have to provide proof or an admission.     

Unreasonable behaviour

Until a no-fault divorce system is enshrined in law, unreasonable behaviour will remain the grounds for divorce UK which is the most commonly used. In itself, ‘unreasonable behaviour’ is a fairly vague concept, and refers to behaviour which means that the person asking for a divorce couldn’t reasonably be expected to continue living with their spouse. The permission or agreement of the spouse won’t be needed, and four or five examples of unreasonable behaviour will have to be presented. Examples of unreasonable behaviour might include excessive drug or alcohol consumption or financial recklessness. Our experience has taught us that the examples don’t have to be extreme in order for the divorce to be granted and that behaviour such as being too focused on a career or enjoying a completely separate social life may well be enough.  


The only ‘no-fault’ grounds for divorce UK currently available applies if a couple have been living separately for a period of at least two years and both parties agree to the divorce taking place. In some cases, couples may have separated but continue living together for two years after agreeing to seek a divorce, thanks to issues such as financial requirements or to protect any children. In cases like this, the couple will have to demonstrate that, despite living under the same roof, they have been leading separate lives for two years. 

If a couple have been living separately for at least five years before the divorce petition is presented then either one can start divorce proceedings without the consent of the other. 

No matter which grounds for divorce UK a client opts for, we will work with them to try and reach an amicable agreement with their spouse, dealing with issues such as maintenance payments for any children involved and where these children will live in the future. Reaching an agreement of this kind in a calm and reasonable manner is sometimes easier said than done, of course, which is why we often advise the use of mediation in order to enable a neutral third party to guide our clients through the process. If you want to ask about grounds for divorce UK please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.

grounds for divorce uk