Irreconcilable Differences in the UK

In some countries, couples wanting to split can cite irreconcilable differences as a way of ending a marriage without pointing the finger of blame. Irreconcilable differences has become the go-to no-fault ground for divorce in many regions.

Celebrities all use it. Most people think it’s the easiest way of ending a marriage. But irreconcilable differences does not exist in the UK.

Irreconcilable differences means a couple does not get along anymore. This is currently not enough to end a marriage in the UK.

Irretrievable breakdown

In the UK, there is currently only one actual ground for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. Within this, there are five facts you can use to explain why your marriage has broken down. These are:

  • Adultery
    Your spouse has had sex with someone of the opposite sex. It’s important to note that if your spouse has had an extra-marital relationship with someone of the same sex as them, adultery can’t legally be used as a reason for divorce.
  • Unreasonable behaviour
    This could involve mental or physical cruelty or abuse. It could also involve debt, addiction or infidelity that doesn’t fall under adultery. In 2018, this was the most common reason for divorce in the UK.
  • Two-year separation
    You and your spouse have lived separately for two years and you both agree to end the marriage.
  • Five-year separation
    When your spouse does not agree to the divorce, you must have lived apart for five years.
  • Desertion
    Your partner has left you. To get a divorce, you must have been living apart for at least two years. It can be challenging to prove desertion, though, as the court may not see your spouse’s absence as desertion.

No-fault divorce

Soon, you won’t have to accuse your spouse of unreasonable behaviour to get divorced. The government is introducing new legislation to end the blame game. This has been introduced to keep conflict to a minimum, which is particularly beneficial to couples with children.

It will also end anyone’s ability to contest a divorce, meaning that if one person wants the divorce, it can happen.

Speaking as the divorce bill entered Parliament, justice secretary Robert Buckland said: “Our reforms will stop divorcing couples having to make unnecessary allegations against one another and instead help them focus on separating amicably.

“By sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can better move on with their lives.”

If you need help to begin the divorce process, our specialist family law solicitors will work with you to establish the best next steps. Just get in touch to find out more.


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