In English law the ground for a divorce is irreconcilable breakdown of a marriage. This is established by adultery on the part of a spouse, unreasonable behaviour on the part of a spouse, mutual agreement to divorce plus 2 years separation, or 5 years separation.
Adultery or unreasonable behaviour does not have to occur pre–separation and the petitioner does not have to definitively prove the allegations. If the respondent does not defend (and it is very uncommon for a respondent to defend), then the petitioner can proceed. If it is difficult to prove adultery, often a similar ground such as “improper association” will cover the situation.
The court does not require an offensive level of detail in allegations of unreasonable behaviour (see our ‘what is unreasonable behaviour?‘ page). A calm statement of facts which reasonably establish that the marriage has broken down is sufficient. Often, allegations of adultery can be made by either party. This does not cancel out the petition, but means that both parties have potential grounds for divorce.
Divorce by mutual consent plus 2 years separation is straightforward, but there can be practical difficulties in getting the other party to sign on the dotted line. It is therefore prudent not to file on that ground without checking whether or not there will be any issues.
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