Divorce & legal separation
Unless specified, this information relates only to England and Wales. If you live in Scotland, go to Parenting across Scotland for information and advice. If you live in Northern Ireland, go to NI direct.
The information below relates to married same and opposite sex couples, unless stated otherwise.
You can file for a divorce if you have been married for at least a year and one of the above facts or grounds for divorce applies. You must have a marriage that is legally recognised in the UK and have a permanent home in England and Wales.
To get a divorce, you will need to prove that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. This is the only grounds for divorce. You will need to provide evidence of one of the following “facts” to prove irretrievable breakdown:
- Your husband or wife has committed adultery with a person of the opposite sex to them (although if you carry on living with them for more than 6 months after you find out, you may not be able to use this).
- They have deserted you for more than 2 years (meaning that they have left you and lived separately without your agreement and without good reason).
- You have lived apart for two years and you both agree to the divorce.
- You have lived apart for five years (no agreement between you required).
- Unreasonable behaviour – your husband or wife has behaved in such a way that you cannot be expected to live with them.
A legal separation allows you to live apart, without divorcing or ending a civil partnership.
You can ask for a legal separation for the same reasons you could file for a divorce, e.g.:
- unreasonable behaviour
However, you don’t need to show that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
To get a legal separation, you need to fill in a separation petition and send it to the court.
The cost of divorce will depend on the divorce proceedings you follow. The cost of divorce is much higher if you need to go to court or use a solicitor. Divorce cost quotes vary depending on the solicitor you use for divorce proceedings, and the complexity of your case. Some solicitors will offer a fixed price for divorce costs.
For information on how to get a divorce, see our page titled ‘The divorce process‘.
Where can i go next?
Resolution - The legal process
Information on filing for divorce and ending a marriage from Resolution.
Wikivorce - Divorce and separation
Support, information and advice on divorce and separation from Wikivorce.
The Law Society - Getting a divorce
Information from the Law Society which describes the step by step divorce process.