Grounds for Divorce in Northern Ireland

Published 30 June 2020

The Coronavirus crisis has presented huge challenges for everyone. Undoubtedly no one could have predicted the impact it would have, and continue to have, on our everyday lives. For many married couples, the situation has presented new challenges or brought hidden problems to the surface.

Often the first question our Family Law team are asked by new clients in this current climate is ‘how do I get a divorce?’ We know that the decision to end a marriage is not one that is taken lightly, so in this blog we will explain in detail the grounds for divorce in Northern Ireland.

Unless you have spent more than two years apart divorce in this country is very much based on blame. In reality however many married couples seeking a divorce have simply fallen out of love or no longer wish to be married, with no one person to blame.

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 filing for divorce do not realise before speaking to ta divorce solicitor, and it can ultimately lead to tension where they may not have been tension before.

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

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.

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.

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, drug taking, drunkenness, not paying for living expenses or physical abuse.


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.


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 a divorce, please contact the Family Law team at MKB Law.

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

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