Divorce and dissolution of civil partnership

Divorce  and dissolution (for civil partnership) is the formal ending of the legal relationship between the spouses or partners. This requires a court order. The courts also have wide powers to adjust the couple’s property and money, and for enforcement of property and money orders.


A person who wants a divorce starts by filling in a form called a “petition” and taking it to a divorce county court or, in London, to the Principal Registry.  The marriage must  have lasted at least one year. Click here to find out more about a petion forms.

You must be able to prove to the court that your marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. You do this by proving one of the 5 ‘facts’ below applies:

That your husband or wife has committed adultery and that you find it intolerable to live with him or her;

That your husband’s or wife’s behaviour has been such that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her;

That your husband or wife deserted you at least 2 years ago;

That you have lived apart from your husband or wife for at least 2 years and he or she agrees to a divorce;

That you have lived apart from your husband or wife for at least 5 years.

The vast majority of divorces are not defended and are considered by a District Judge without a court hearing. If the judge agrees that proper reasons have been given a divorce is granted.

You can also apply to the court for a ruling that your marriage is not valid and obtain a decree of nullity.If a couple divorces or their marriage is annulled, the courts have powers to make orders relating to their money and property.

For more information about divorce see Divorce Aid and Divorce-online.

The Community Legal Service (CLS) has a leaflet on divorce and separation.

Find out more questions you may be asked regarding divorce

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