Kerry Fretwell, Partner
George Bernard Shaw is reputed to have said ‘Marriage is an alliance entered into by a man who can’t sleep with the window open and a woman who can’t sleep with the window shut’. For some spouses, such issues are part and parcel of a normal marriage but for those who have been married a long time, there can be any number of reasons why a husband or wife may decide that they no longer wish to be together.
There are about 110,000 divorces in this country every year, with about 600 people getting divorced every day. Each divorce is based on an irretrievable marriage breakdown but this has to be proved by one of five different facts. Three of those facts are time-related, including being separated for 2 years for a divorce by consent or being separated for 5 years with no consent required. However, if a couple want to start divorce proceedings within the 2-year period, then they must use what is called a ‘fault-based ground’, which means either citing the other party’s unreasonable behaviour or their adultery within the past 6 months.
The divorce legislation was brought into statute in 1973 and is now therefore over 43 years old. Society has changed significantly in that time. Just about three quarters of all divorces today are based on a fault ground, with the majority being based on the other spouse’s unreasonable behaviour. The divorce itself can be a relatively simple paper process and the court costs for divorce proceedings from start to finish are £550. The Government is also making the procedure easier by encouraging the filing of online petitions and simplifying the documentation.