Getting a divorce in the United Kingdom

In accordance with English law, to end a marriage, an application for divorce must be sent to a court (Divorce Petition). If the other half agrees to the divorce, the court will issue a decree nisi; a document that states that the court does not see any reason why you cannot divorce. You will then need to wait a minimum of 6 weeks before you can apply for a ‘decree absolute’ to end the marriage. A divorce applicant is required to provide one or more of the following facts in order to prove that the marital relations have “been damaged beyond repair.”

Grounds for divorce


Your husband or wife had sex with someone else of the opposite sex, and you can no longer bear to live with them.

It doesn’t count as adultery if they had sex with someone of the same sex. This includes if you’re in a same-sex marriage.

You can’t give adultery as a reason if you lived with your husband or wife for 6 months after you found out about it.

Unreasonable behaviour

Your husband or wife behaved so badly that you can no longer bear 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 have lived apart for more than 2 years

You can get a divorce if you’ve lived apart for more than 2 years and both agree to the divorce.

Your husband or wife must agree in writing.

You have lived apart for more than 5 years

Living apart for more than 5 years is usually enough to get a divorce, even if your husband or wife disagrees with the divorce.