Grounds for Divorce in England (Introduction to the Family Law Act 1996)

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This article provides an introduction into divorce under Family Act 1996 in England, outlining a few basic principles and the 5 grounds for divorce.

In England, many people are getting divorced from their spouse. The amount of people getting divorced is high and a lot of people wouldn't even know how to start going about getting one. First off, the best piece of advice to give the read for divorcing in England, is to get a solicitor. You will need one to ensure that you are getting the fairest divorce possible. This article only seeks to provide an introduction into divorce under the Family Law Act 1996 and outlines a few basic principles and grounds for divorce in England.

What is Divorce in England?

Under section 5 of the Family Law Act 1996, a divorce in England and Wales is considered as a marital breakdown. Section (1) of the Family Law Act 1996 states that "A marriage is to be taken to have broken down irretrievably if (but only if)— (a)a statement has been made by one (or both) of the parties that the maker of the statement (or each of them) believes that the marriage has broken down" Therefore, if either the husband or wife want a divorce, they can start proceedings under this act in England.

When can you divorce in England?

There are some conditions attached to starting divorce proceedings, one of them being that you must have been married for at least one year. After this point as long as your problem qualifies as a ground for divorce you can start proceedings at any point in your marriage.

What are the grounds for divorce in England?

Under the Family Law Act 1996 in England, there are currently 5 grounds for divorce.

  • Adultery - This ground for divorce is where either the husband or wife have sexual intercourse with another person. If you file for divorce under this heading your must prove that, or provide enough circumstantial evidence, of the alleged offense of adultery in England.
  • Unreasonable Behavior - Here your spouse must have acted in such as way that you can't reasonably be expected to live with him or her anymore. It has to be more than just no washing the dishes, for example, taking drugs, excessive drinking or domestic abuse.
  • Desertion - This is, quite simply where the spouse has deserted his or her partner for a period of at least 2 years. Under this ground for divorce, the spouse must be totally deserted by his or her partner and not just separated.
  • 2 years Separation - Under this ground for divorce, the married couple must have been living apart from each other by mutual consent for at least 2 years.
  • 5 years Separation - Here, this ground for divorce can be used if the couple have been separated for 5 years. There isn't any need for mutual consent here.


This article has provided the reader with a short introduction into the law surrounding divorce in England and Wales, highlighted the grounds for divorce under the Family Law Act 1996.


William Lake
Posted on Feb 23, 2011
Rama lingam
Posted on Feb 23, 2011