What are valid grounds for divorce in Northern Ireland

First published Jan 2015 
3 minutes
Family Law

The Family & Matrimonial Solicitors at MKB Law explain the different grounds for divorce in Northern Ireland…

The beginning of January is usually a busy time of year for divorce solicitors in Northern Ireland and across the UK. The first Monday of the month has now been dubbed ‘Divorce Day’ as it has been proven to be one of the busiest days in the calendar year with a surge in the number of new cases being opened. It has been reported that there are 30% more divorce enquiries around this time!

Why this time of the year?

There are a couple of reasons for the increase at the start of the year:

1. First of all we have those who have fallen out over the festive period having struggled financially or spent the holidays arguing and decided to call it quits.

2. Then we have couples who have always planned to hold off until after the New Year to spend one last Christmas together as a family or for their children.

Unless you have spent more than two years apart divorce in this country is very much based on blame. In the modern world however many married couples looking for a divorce have simply fallen out of love or no longer wish to be married with no one person to blame (we have all heard about Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘conscious uncoupling’).

For these people a divorce can mean having to make problems where there are none, and are left with no option but to cite unreasonable behaviour on the part of their spouse. This is something many couples filling for divorce do not realise before speaking to their divorce solicitor and it can lead to tension where they may not have been tension before.

What are the different grounds for divorce in Northern Ireland and how do they work?

1. Lived Apart For 2 Years

In Northern Ireland if you and your spouse have lived apart for over two years and both parties agree to the divorce you can do so without assigning blame. In this scenario you can have lived together in this time but not for any longer than 6 months in total.

2. Lived Apart For 5 Years

You may divorce without consent if you and your spouse have lived apart for over 5 years. In this scenario your spouse cannot defend this decision.

3. Unreasonable Behaviour

This claim can be made if your spouse has acted in a way in which you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This behaviour can range from a number of things including verbal abuse, taking drugs, drunkenness, not paying for housing expenses or physical abuse.

4. Adultery

Adultery is claimed if your husband or wife have had a sexual relationship with another person and on those grounds you can no longer live with them. You will usually prove the act of adultery by your spouse admitting to it. If they do not admit to this you will have to discuss how you will proceed with your solicitor. It is also worth noting that if you continue to live with your partner for more than 6 months after the act of adultery you will usually not be able to use this as grounds for divorce.

5. Desertion

Finally you can file for divorce if your husband or wife has deserted you for over two years. This basically means that your spouse has left without giving a reason or without prior agreement.

If you wish to discuss the divorce process or the cost of divorce with a member of our Family Law team contact us today: 028 9024 2450 or info@mkblaw.co.uk

This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.

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