Jane Sisson-Pell, Family Law Barrister

If you have taken the life-changing decision to end your marriage, you may have been through a painful and difficult time to arrive at this point.

Jane explains divorce

A divorce petition can be issued if a couple have been married for one year or more and the court has jurisdiction to deal with the divorce in England and Wales. The person who issues the petition is called the Petitioner. The person receiving it is called the Respondent.

Divorce petitions must be completed with great care. In fact, many divorce petitions are returned unprocessed.

The court fee for divorce petitions has increased and is now £550. However, if, the petitioner is on certain benefits or has a low income they may be able to get money off the court fee (i.e. apply for fee remission).

New law announced: No Fault Divorce

On 7th June 2021, Ministers announced that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, (which will allow married couples to divorce without assigning blame), will come into force on 6th April 2022. This date is later than originally expected, and it is understood that this is to allow time for the necessary IT changes to be made to HMCTS’s online divorce systems. Nigel Shepherd, the former Chair of Resolution, who has spearheaded the call for ‘No Fault Divorce’ over many years, said: “Whilst any delay is disappointing, we do now have certainty over the introduction of this important reform, and will be able to advise clients accordingly.


Grounds for divorce

Currently, the only ground for divorce is irretrievable breakdown, which is proved by relying on one or more of the five reasons set out below:

1. Adultery

For adultery to be proved, the applicant (the person who starts the divorce proceedings) will have to show that the respondent (their spouse), has had sex with someone else of the opposite sex, and the applicant can not reasonably be expected to to live with the respondent. If the applicant does live with the respondent for six months or more after finding out about the adultery, this can be a bar to relying on the adultery ground because the applicant may appear to have condoned it.

2. Unreasonable behaviour (this is the most common reason for divorce)

For unreasonable behavior to be proved the applicant will have to show that ‘the respondent has behaved in such a way that they can not reasonably be expected to live with them’. Examples of conduct which may satisfy this ground are domestic violence or verbal abuse, or an alcohol, drug or gambling problem, or improper association with someone else (e.g. spending hours on internet chatrooms or sending intimate texts to another person). The best approach is to disclose them to the respondent in advance of the issue of the petition in an attempt to get the allegations agreed.

3. Desertion

4. Two years separation and the respondent consents to the divorce, in writing.

5. Five years separation and no consent is required.

Ready to get started?

You will be fully supported and in control of your case at every stage.

Jane is authorised to practise by the Bar Council and is regulated by the Bar Standards Board. She has a right of audience in every court in England and Wales. Jane can be contacted via the Bar Council Public Access Register.

For legal advice on divorce, get in touch for a quick quote:

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