Grounds for Divorce in the UK

Kelly Grigg, a family lawyer at Richard Nelson LLP, outlines the grounds for divorce and reasons for divorce in the UK.

Richard Nelson LLP is a leading firm for 2021, part of the legal 500. Our family lawyers have been accredited by the Law Society for Family Law and Children Law.


Grounds for Divorce in the UK

There is one ground for divorce, and that is if the “marriage has broken down irretrievably”. This means at least one of the parties has come to the decision that the marriage is at an end, and they are not prepared to try and fix things.

In order to satisfy “irretrievable breakdown”, you must satisfy the court of one of the following:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion of at least two years
  • Two years separation with consent
  • Five years separation without consent


Adultery is defined as voluntary intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married to each other but one of whom is a married person. Adultery must be either admitted or proved. Suspicion is not enough.

Unreasonable Behaviour

“Unreasonable behaviour” is the term used to describe the fact that one party has behaved in such a way that the other party cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This can include a suspicion of adultery, as it does not need to be proved or admitted. If you divorce on this basis, you should also explain briefly how such behaviour has made you feel.

Desertion of at least two years

Desertion of at least two years is rarely used. This is when one party leaves the marriage with little or no explanation and definitely not by agreement.

Two years separation with consent

Most couples who have been separated for two or more years agree that one of them can commence the divorce proceedings and that the other will consent to it.

Five years separation without consent

Another rarely used divorce ground is five years separation without consent. This is rarely used, as usually within this time period, one party has commenced divorce proceedings in order to resolve linked financial matters.

Work with a family law specialist

Get in touch with Kelly to further discuss the grounds and reasons for divorce in the UK:Tel: 0333 888 40404


Or contact Richard Nelson LLP online.

Kelly Grigg is a family solicitor with a wealth of experience helping a wide range of clients on family law matters.

With years of experience comes the understanding that every family is different. Kelly offers assistance and representation at court on family law matters including divorce and separation; pre- and post-nuptial agreements; children matters; unmarried couples; financial matters; and domestic abuse and protection orders.

At what is a stressful and emotional time, Kelly prides herself in avoiding legal speak. She will clearly explain your options and the processes involved, so you feel in control every step of the way.

Kelly understands that family life can be hectic at the best of times and is happy to make arrangements for out of hours appointments where needed.


“I really can’t thank you enough for all you have done for me with my divorce. The process has been made easier by your understanding of my situation and the care you have provided. I breathe a sigh of relief that it’s nearly over and my future is a whole lot happier and brighter.”

A client

“Kelly is a professional, friendly and supportive Solicitor. She helped my son gain access to his daughter, advising him every step of the way. I would highly recommend Kelly.”

A client

Written by Kelly Grigg

Kelly Grigg is a family solicitor at Richard Nelson LLP, based in the South West. Kelly favours reducing conflict by reaching an out of court agreement, which is often the most favourable way to resolve divorce proceedings and other family law matters. Read more about Kelly Grigg.

One of the Nation's Leading Law Firms

Specialists in legal advice and representation for businesses, professionals and individuals

Make an enquiry